Green buildings can play a role in helping countries meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Green building can provide an important contribution to sustainability, for example, by improving energy efficiency, by improving indoor air quality, and by effective waste treatment. In practice, we see that there is an increasing interest in various forms of green building. However, the existing literature has not identified the role of law in promoting green building. It is, moreover, striking that green building has taken off in a rather impressive manner in China. Although generally there are still huge environmental problems with which China is confronted, for many years already China has been engaged in green building. This paper wants to examine what explains the relative success of green building in China; What specific legal instruments can be used to promote green building; and what lessons can be drawn more generally from experience in China? The paper uses the theory of smart regulation (Gunningham/Grabosky) and the economic analysis of law to examine the importance of different instruments in promoting green building. The paper comes to two key results, being that no single instrument in itself is optimal to promote green building as a result of which a smart mix needs to be designed to promote green building; moreover, for the specific case of China, it is the large government involvement in the economy that has been able to jump-start green building. The Chinese government has, on the one hand, mandated green building in government projects, but on the other hand, also used market-based instruments (like subsidies and public procurement) to promote green building.

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International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics

Shen, Y, & Faure, M.G. (2020). Green building in China. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. doi:10.1007/s10784-020-09495-3