Induforgroup-Forest Law Amendment to Transform China’s Forest Sector
China’s forest landscapes, forest-dependent communities, and industry face massive transformation following key legislative and institutional changes over the past several years. China’s newly revised Forest Law (cn/en) will introduce greater change when it comes into force in July 2020. Shifting away from a focus on timber production, the revised law seeks to balance forest management to more fully realize the role of forests in providing economic, social, ecological and cultural services.
Evolving Legislation and Institutions
The Forest Law revisions come on the heels of other steps taken to improve China’s forest governance:
2015: China’s Environmental Protection Law, first passed in 2014, underwent revisions to impose extensive responsibilities for public authorities to enforce industry-facing environmental regulations, including limiting pollutant emissions under required levels—with punishments for noncompliance.
China passed a ban on commercial harvesting of natural forests, rolled out from 2015 to 2018. The ban further increased China’s dependency on domestic plantation forests and imported wood sources to supply its forest-based industries.
2017: President Xi Jinping advanced the “two mountains” principle (“Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets”) to ensure harmonious co-existence between humans and nature, including efficient use of natural resources. The report of the 19th Session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) established “ecological civilization” and “beautiful China” as high priorities on China’s development agenda.
2018: The People’s Congress amended the Constitution to include “ecological civilization” for the first time. This established ecological civilization as the ideological framework for China’s environmental policies, laws and education, and created the basis for establishing corresponding institutions and systems.
The People’s Congress adopted a State Council proposal for institutional reforms to enable comprehensive and coordinated protection of the natural environment and strengthen enforcement of pollution regulations. It dismantled the Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Environmental Protection, and State Forestry Administration. In their place it established the Ministry of Ecological Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources, and National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA). The creation of NFGA in particular enables more centralized coordination of protection and management of forest, grassland, and wetland ecosystems, and accelerates establishment of national parks.