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 Environmental Issues and Environmental Governance Implications in Developed Countries in the Process of Urbanization

Environmental Problems and Enlightenment of Environmental Governance in DevelopedCountries in the Process of Urbanization

刘冠鹏Liu Guanpeng


Abstract With the advancement of urbanization, rapid economic and industrial development is accompanied by a large consumption of energy. Due to the lack of attention to the relationship between humans and the natural climate environment in the development process, it directly leads to the destruction of urban environment and livability. China is currently facing a series of environmental problems. The urbanization rate in China has just exceeded , while developed countries such as the UK, Germany, and the US have already experienced similar stages and have all experienced similar environmental problems in their development processes. In response to these environmental problems, Western countries have successively proposed various response measures, which have achieved significant results and are worth learning from for China. This article combines the current development background to propose the causes of environmental problems, summarizes the main environmental problems faced by China at the current stage, and then studies and learns from the environmental governance experiences of the UK, Germany, and the US, the first three countries to experience urbanization rates of , and finally attempts to propose references and insights for China's environmental problem governance.

Keywords Urbanization; Environmental issues; Environmental governance; Developed countries; Experience reference CLC number X171.4; TU984

 Document Identification Code A

DOI 10.19892/j.cnki.csjz.2022.16.03


With the advancement of the urbanization process, the rapid economic and industrial development is accompanied by a large amount of energy consumption. Due to the lack of attention to the relationship between human and the natural climate environment in the process of development, it directly leads to the damage to the urban environment and urban livability. Our country is currently facing a series of environmental problems. China's urbanization rate has just exceeded , while developed countries such as Britain, Germany, and the United States have already experienced similar stages, and they have experienced similar environmental problems in their respective development history. In response to these environmental problems, the western countries have successively put forward a variety of countermeasures, which have achieved remarkable results and are worthy to be learned. Based on the current development background, this paper proposes the causes of environmental problems, and summarizes the main environmental problems encountered in our country at this stage, and then studies the environmental governance experience adopted by the three countries that first experienced an urbanization rate of in the

United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. Finally, the paper tries to put forward the reference and enlightenment for the governance of environmental problems in our country.
Key words urbanization; environmental issues; environment governance; developed countries; experience reference

 Background: Causes of environmental issues

With the development of the economy, the urbanization process of various countries is accelerating continuously, which also triggers many environmental problems. Developed countries experienced this issue much earlier than our country. In the early 1950s, the urbanization rate in the UK had already reached , while our country reached 50% urbanization in 2010. Countries such as South Korea, the United States, Japan, and Germany also faced serious environmental problems during their development.

Now, several countries that have experienced severe environmental pollution have achieved a better environment, thanks to their emphasis on the environment and sustainable development, as well as the implementation of corresponding policies and measures. Therefore, it is necessary for our country to learn from the experiences and methods of developed countries, study how they address environmental issues, and provide important references for environmental governance in our country.

 2 Current Situation of Environmental Issues in China

To draw lessons from the experiences of developed countries and propose targeted environmental governance solutions for the future development of our country, the first thing that must be done is to have a full understanding of the environmental issues facing our country at the current stage. The serious environmental problems currently facing China mainly include air pollution, water pollution, waste disposal, land desertification and sand disasters, soil erosion, droughts and floods, biodiversity destruction, and the issue of persistent organic pollutants, etc.

 3 Environmental Issues Experienced in the Development of Developed Countries

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 1860s in the 18th century, countries around the world have started to enter the industrialization process, which has further promoted economic development. However, with the development of industrialization, environmental issues have emerged in various countries. This study explores some countries that entered the industrialization stage early and found that the industrialization process has significantly and rapidly increased the level of urbanization over a hundred years. However, in the urbanization process of various countries, due to industrial pollution and lack of environmental awareness, environmental issues are becoming increasingly serious, especially as the urbanization rates of various countries reach the standard of , the ecological and environmental issues are entering a stage of concentrated outbreak.

In the global context, the first country to enter the industrialization stage was the United Kingdom. According to the results of the 1851 population census, in that year, the total urban population in the UK exceeded the rural population for the first time. Urban population accounted for 50% of the total population, symbolizing the UK's entry into the initial stage of urbanization. By the end of the 19th century, the UK had already achieved a high level of urbanization. In the early 1890s, of the population in the UK belonged to urban areas , which fully demonstrated that industrial development was conducive to promoting urbanization. At the same time, during this century, the UK was the most powerful country globally, but along with economic development, it also faced serious environmental issues. Both the government and the public increasingly paid attention to this issue. In the mid-19th century, the City Sanitation Association described the current situation of UK cities, stating: "The city of Bolton is truly terrible; Bristol city - extremely bad, with a high mortality rate; Hull city - some areas are unimaginably bad, most areas are filthy, whether it's the town's drainage system or coastal areas, they have suffered serious damage, overcrowding is a prominent issue, and ventilation facilities are clearly insufficient." [3 In this century, environmental issues in the country were indeed quite serious, especially in terms of air and water pollution, which also led to various infectious diseases [2]. The air in various towns was filled with foul odors, leading to the premature deaths of many people.

In 1893, the urbanization rate in Germany reached ; in 1918, the United States also reached this standard. However, at the same time, environmental issues became increasingly serious. According to relevant current affairs understanding, in the Ruhr area of Germany, the pollution situation is shocking, with various smoke emissions around the clock, and once foggy weather occurs, visibility becomes extremely poor. Laundry cannot be hung outdoors because it will only get dirtier. If the pollution situation in the area where residents live is severe, their physical and mental safety will also be seriously threatened, such as developing leukemia, cancer, etc. At that time, people were not aware of the importance of environmental issues because industry was constantly advancing and people's lives were becoming more prosperous. The pollution of the Rhine River made it practically a "sewer of Europe".

In the process of urbanization development in the United States, various problems have also been encountered, such as large-scale deforestation, excessive land development, and increasingly prominent industrial pollution issues. In the 1950s, Los Angeles experienced a photochemical smog pollution event, which was one of the eight major pollution incidents globally. In addition, in the western region, uncontrolled mineral exploitation has led to severe ecological imbalance. The speed of industrial development has become faster, with increasing emissions of pollutants, and the acid rain problem continues to worsen. The problems within cities are even more severe, such as housing issues, sanitation facilities, and so on.

Similarly, the two developed Asian countries of Japan and South Korea have also experienced serious environmental pollution during their development process, with Japan's Minamata disease being a very famous example. Another relatively serious environmental pollution event was the Yokkaichi asthma in 1979, which affected as many as 800,000 people. South Korea has also had similar incidents during its industrial development process. In 1983, the "Ulsan disease" broke out in Ulsan City, Gyeongsangnam-do, the most industrialized province in South Korea, as a result of environmental pollution. The 1991 Nakdong River pollution incident also had a global impact.

 4 Experience in Environmental Governance in Developed Countries

Due to the development of industry, many problems have been brought to cities, especially environmental pollution, which has attracted the attention of the country and the people. The government has also introduced various policies in the hope of alleviating these issues. These countries faced environmental problems earlier than our country, and their experiences and methods in environmental protection have good reference value for the similar environmental issues currently faced by our country. On a global scale, there are three countries that were the first to urbanize to , namely the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Looking at the development of world history, these countries have also played important roles at different stages, making significant contributions to global economic development. Therefore, analyzing and summarizing the measures taken by these three countries when facing environmental issues have better reference value compared to other countries. This article summarizes the governance experiences of the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States, three typical early industrialized countries, in addressing environmental issues, hoping to gain some insights from them.

 4.1 Governance of Environmental Issues in the United Kingdom

In 1952, a smog event occurred in London, which had a certain impact on the British public and government. It was because of this impact that the UK enacted the Clean Air Act, which played an important role in the overall air governance process in the UK and had significant importance. In the mid-1960s, the industrial sector, which was the top source of pollution in the UK, made significant progress in development, resulting in a reduction in smoke emissions by about , leading to a decrease in occupational diseases to 17% [4]. After decades of persistent efforts, significant improvements have been made in the UK's environmental issues, and to date, it ranks first in environmental quality globally. Research on the environmental governance situation in the UK reveals two prominent features.

 4.1.1 Legal Means of Environmental Governance in the United Kingdom

In the process of environmental control in the UK, the core of the control system lies in continuously optimizing and improving laws and regulations, especially environmental standards, through legal means, creating a sound legal system.

For example, in 2008, the British royal family officially approved the "Climate Change Act."

( Climate Change Act ), the first country in the world to introduce greenhouse gas emission reduction targets into law is the United Kingdom. This law is of great significance for environmental governance in the UK, setting a target to achieve emissions reduction by 2050, providing a legal standard and basis for the country's carbon dioxide emissions. If the expected emission reduction targets cannot be met, environmental groups will resort to legal channels to sue the government.

From an overall perspective, in the 19th century, the guiding principle of environmental legislation in the UK was focused on end-of-pipe control. After the 1970s, in order to avoid environmental pollution, the UK began to establish corresponding standards. The legislative principles include pollution prevention and control, sustainable development, and polluter pays, forming the basis for comprehensive pollution control and environmental management standards, while also creating an environmental impact assessment system.

 4.1.2 Public Participation in Environmental Governance in the United Kingdom

For environmental governance in the UK, the government plays an important role. However, the social awareness and responsibility of the general public also play a crucial role, which is beneficial for promoting environmental governance and advancing conservation activities.

British people began to pay more and more attention to environmental and health issues in the mid to late 19th century. Therefore, in environmental governance, the role of the public is very important. After the promulgation of the Magna Carta, the British people also had a deeper understanding of the importance of individual rights and social justice, promoting the awakening of public awareness and encouraging them to actively take on their environmental responsibilities.

While environmental governance is taking place, non-governmental organizations in the UK also play an important role. In general, governments and local authorities, in the process of environmental governance, will entrust other relevant entities, such as intermediary organizations, social groups, and certification bodies. For example, the British Standards Institution, whose main function is to develop, revise, and consult on environmental management systems, etc. These organizations facilitate the connection between businesses and governments, helping the government achieve better results in environmental governance.

 4.2 German Environmental Governance

 4.2.1 Integration of Environmental Management and Spatial Planning

In terms of governance in Germany, a very crucial control method is spatial planning. Germany uses a rational spatial planning model to scientifically control urban development, proactively design green spaces, plan industrial layouts reasonably, and promote environmental protection. Germany also proposes dividing municipal districts into two regions, namely "colorful" and "white." The former mainly refers to places where residents gather or places to be developed, while the latter often represents the outskirts of the city. For the latter, the main function is to develop agricultural-related industries to promote the city's rational expansion. In 1919, the Ruhr area (the largest industrial area in Europe at the time) took the lead in establishing the Regional Planning Association (SVR), providing important references and insights for the development of German industrial zones. At present, the entire region is under reasonable control, separated by large green belts (with a width of 5-10km), mainly serving as buffers and providing more ample recreational spaces. The organizational form of this planning joint committee is basically popularized nationwide in a bottom-up manner.

Germany's preventive environmental policy mainly focuses on closely integrating environmental management and spatial planning, which is quite interesting. Exploring this approach through research is also beneficial for providing important references for environmental governance in other countries.

 4.2.2 Regional Coordinated Management

Regional coordinated management is actually to entrust the management of water resources of rivers to a coordinating organization, and so far, this method still has very good results. The purpose of establishing this organization is to ensure the overall health and stability of the river system.

 4.3 Governance of Environmental Issues in the United States

According to the development situation in the United States, there are also many environmental issues, among which the most prominent is air pollution, so the United States also pays great attention to air pollution in the process of environmental governance. In the 1970s, the United States began to focus on controlling air pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was officially established in 1970, and in that year, the United States also passed the Clean Air Act Amendments, also known as the "1970 Clean Air Act". The "1970 Clean Air Act" provided the foundation and guarantee for the development of the U.S. air pollution control system.

The legal provisions are diverse, with four aspects that are beneficial to the optimization of air quality: based on health considerations, air quality standards have been established; it is explicitly required that all states must develop "Pollutant Emission Reduction Implementation Plans" to achieve air quality standards; states are required to specify the time for achieving compliance in their "Pollutant Emission Reduction Implementation Plans"; citizens are allowed to sue if the "Pollutant Emission Reduction Implementation Plans" are not effectively implemented.

In addition, the United States also clearly stated that environmental governance must be carried out, proposed corresponding measures, reasonably controlled fixed-source pollution emissions, and improved exhaust emission standards for all new cars on the road. Not only that, but also gradually improved fuel quality, while reducing the amount of pollutants emitted, proposed fuel equipment emission standards for all small cars, and also proposed traffic control measures to promote smooth traffic flow, encourage carpooling among the people, etc.

 Summary: Insights and Ideas on Environmental Protection in China

 5.1 Organically integrate environmental governance with spatial planning

So far, various cities in our country are still developing. According to the current status of most urban planning projects, they are either in the process of being formulated or about to be formulated. For planning formulation, promoting environmental governance is very important, and one key way is to govern from the source, mainly involving designing public spaces, urban greenways, and green spaces, all of which are beneficial for promoting environmental governance and improving environmental quality.

 5.2 Fully utilize new technologies, attach importance to data collection, and appropriately open source.

In the process of environmental governance, implementing new ecological technologies is also very crucial, and the most prominent factor lies in the analysis and simulation technology. By adopting this technology, more scientifically reasonable strategies can be formulated, mainly involving monitoring pollutants, collecting pollution data, and implementing governance technologies.

 5.3 Comprehensive Application of Management and Technical Means

In the process of environmental governance, the only effective way is not technology. However, for small and medium-sized enterprises, technological means are the most effective in managing pollution sources. The specific measures involved are relatively concise, and closely related to daily life and work, so the effect is also better, conducive to improving air quality.

 5.4 Starting from the source, effectively deal with pollution sources

Regarding environmental issues, it is necessary to start from the source, which also reflects the importance of analyzing and controlling pollution sources. For example, it is important to identify where the sewage is discharged from, which also has special requirements for the overall quality of environmental governance.

 5.5 Improve public awareness and enhance public participation

Urban sustainable development, ecological civilization construction, and environmental protection are the responsibilities of everyone, rather than just the government's actions. From the perspective of pollution sources, every member of the public in a city could potentially be one of the pollution sources causing environmental pollution. This requires raising public awareness of sustainable development, ecological civilization, and environmental protection. Developed countries in the West have also gone through a similar process of transitioning from widespread destruction to protection by a minority to widespread environmental conservation.
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One of the elements is to deepen tourists' impressions of the city. An excellent sculpture work should not only be designed from aspects such as craftsmanship, materials, and modeling, but also combine regional cultural characteristics, highlight its cultural attributes, and give the sculpture a narrative. In the Jiasa area, the "mysterious Ailao Mountain" is a unique natural landscape, and the "charming Hua Yao Dai" is a unique humanistic sentiment, providing many excellent themes for sculpture creation. In the design of sculptures, traditional Hua Yao Dai residential forms and materials can be deconstructed and reconstructed to form the main form, or Ailao Mountain can be abstractly expressed, using stainless steel mountain forms that undulate like slices to express the unique natural environment of Jiasa Town. In short, cultural elements should be integrated into landscape sculpture design to create a unique cultural style for local residents and tourists.

 4 Conclusion

In the process of rapid development of the global economy, the improvement of urban landscapes is an inevitable trend. Landscape construction plays a crucial role in Jiajiu Town. If the effects of tourism development are not significant and the urban landscape is not upgraded, then economic benefits will be non-existent. Therefore, in the overall environment of landscape construction and economic benefits, how to enhance regional characteristics is the main issue faced by the landscape construction in Jiajiu Town. The only way to solve such problems at present is to combine modern landscape construction with ethnic culture and natural features, highlight the essence of the "Hua Yao Dai" culture, and make the urban landscape unique and full of characteristics through diversified design concepts and innovative design techniques, so that visitors remember the Dai culture and residents establish national sentiments.


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[3] Li Yan. Application of Indigenous Ethnic Cultural Elements in Urban Landscape Design [J]. Art and Design (Theory), 2017, 2(09): 64-66.

[4] Liu Wei. The Importance of Sculpture Sketches in Landscape Design [J]. Fine Arts Education Research, 2018 (24): 63.

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[6] Ma Zhen. Analysis and Research on Plant Landscape of Jiajiu Town, Xinping County, Yuxi City [J]. Modern Horticulture, 2021, 44 (12): 134-136

(Continued on page 11)

 5.6 Cost Control and Long-Term Revenue Ideas

Whether it is promoting urban development or managing urban environments, cost issues are very critical and worth considering. This is more evident in the measures already implemented in developed countries, which have shown good results. However, in the process of considering costs, we should not only focus on immediate benefits but also pay attention to long-term and long-lasting effects.

 6 Conclusion

In 1978, China officially proposed to implement reform and opening up, and thereafter the speed of economic development in China began to accelerate. However, environmental pollution also became increasingly serious. Overall, whether it is China's development or the problems and challenges faced in terms of the environment, there is a high degree of similarity with the experiences of developed countries in the process of urbanization. Therefore, China can learn from the experiences and lessons of these countries. By analyzing the strategies of developed countries in dealing with environmental issues during the rapid urban development process, it can help China to think about environmental protection. This article combines China's environmental issues, learns from the experiences of developed countries, proposes ideas for China's urban environmental protection and sustainable urban development, and provides research references and foundations for subsequent strategic research and policy formulation.


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  1. Author's Profile: Liu Guanpeng (1989-), male, national registered urban and rural planner, engineer. Research interests: urban and rural planning, urban cultural design, ecological design, community renewal.
     Author's Unit: Shanghai Shenlian Architectural Design Co., Ltd

  2. [1] Pacific Ocean. Protecting the environment: the top ten environmental issues facing our country [EB/OL].