China is trying a new strategy to deal with companies that break pollution rules: wield their data against them. Reuters reports that China is launching a data platform on March 1st that will let the public and officials study real-time and recorded emissions levels to determine if factories and institutions are violating pollution regulations. You could theoretically catch a manufacturer in the act and pressure them into complying.
Chinese companies are required to get permits to spew pollutants into the atmosphere, but officials previously had trouble gathering the necessary info and frequently dealt with firms either falsifying data or stalling on information requests. Lawbreakers face daily fines, and those intentionally dodging supervision face arrest.
Under the new system, companies will have to install monitoring equipment and maintain at least five years of data. Companies that don’t comply will have to pay fines of 200,000 yuan (about $31,000), while pollution offenders risk fines up to 1 million yuan (roughly $154,600).
It’s a dramatic move that might not fly elsewhere, particularly in countries where publicly sharing factory data might be treated as a competitive disadvantage. A sudden surge in pollution could reflect an increase in customers, for instance. Still, it might help China get a better hold on rogue polluters and reduce its contributions to smog and climate change.