The Chinese government has been engaged in work to protect the national environment since the country's first national law on environmental protection in 1989, the Environmental Protection Law, administered by the State Environmental Protection Administration. After the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, China was one of the first countries to formulate and carry out a strategy of sustainable development. In 1993, the Environmental Resources Committee of the National People's Congress was set up. So far, the NPC and State Council have promulgated eight laws for environmental protection, 14 laws for management of natural resources and 34 regulations on environmental protection. Environmental protection authorities have publicized over 90 national environmental protection regulations and more than 1,020 local ones.
Responding to stresses on natural resources caused by fast economic growth, development and urbanization, the state at the turn of the 21st Century responded with a "green strategy" that includes developing a revolving economy, increasing resource-use efficiency; developing clean production, reducing pollution cost in the process of production; developing green consumption, reducing ecological damage by the process of consumption; developing new energy resources, reforming the mode of production, moving toward ecological industrial civilization, and creating a balanced ecological environment. The Cleaner Production Promotion Law, which went into effect on January 1, 2003 and the Environment Impact Assessment Law, which went into effect on September 1, 2003, provide guarantees to implement the strategy. The Cleaner Production Promotion Law requires full control over all the production links — from production design, choice of energy resources and raw materials, technology, equipment maintenance, to waste recycling — so as to reduce pollution and promote recycling of resources.
The Environment Impact Assessment Law requires relevant departments of the State Council, local governments and relevant authorities of cities with districts and above to assess the impact on the environment when making plans for land use, construction and development of districts, river basins and sea areas. The State Environmental Protection Administration in 2002 authorized the presence of specialized personnel at the 13 key national projects to assess and control their environmental impact. These projects included the laying of railroad lines in Qinghai Province and Tibet and the laying of pipeline transporting natural gas from western China to the eastern coastal areas. On some sections of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in northern Tibet, those in charge of construction planned and designed according to the requirements of the environmental protection authorities to protect the grassland, and on average every kilometer of railway in those sections cost an extra 20 million yuan.