Green building in China

Yayun Shen*, Michael Faure

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-199
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements-Politics Law and Economics
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Green building
  • Instrument mixes
  • Command and control
  • Market-based instruments
  • Suasive instruments
  • Energy buildings
  • Enforcement
  • Procurement
  • Motivation
  • Innovation
  • Law

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