Abstract: Transboundary pollution issues present significant challenges to local governments. Many places around the world have addressed these issues by initiating a regional approach for environmental management. While such strategies are often asserted to positively influence localities' environmental governance capacity, empirical evidence for these claims is thin. This study explores the association between regional integration plans and the involved localities' environmental management capacity using the valuable but understudied case of China's national-level city clusters. It constructs novel measures to assess 137 Chinese cities' actual performance in air pollution mitigation and applies structural equation modeling tools to analyze whether cities' capacity in environmental enforcement and compliance is different inside and outside of the major urban agglomerations. Results show that enforcement activities are done differently in these two studied groups, and differences in cities' enforcement-compliance capacity better explain the differences in the un-clustered cities' average air quality. Moreover, this study shows that the two studied groups face different capacity-building opportunities in environmental enforcement and compliance. These opportunities mainly exist in areas such as environmental impact assessment of new construction projects, supervisory monitoring of nationally monitored polluters, and spot-check on daily polluters. Our study is the first to empirically evaluate Chinese cities' capacity in environmental enforcement and compliance with reference to both the procedural outcomes and the environmental outcomes. Our results have important managerial implications for local environmental protection bureaus, major industrial polluters, and policy makers who are involved in the design and implementation of China's urban agglomeration development plans.
School Authors: Yueming 'Lucy' Qiu