The fiscal system plays an important role in the government's environmental governance efforts. There is currently no consensus on how fiscal structure adjustments impact pollution and carbon reduction. This paper uses China's fiscal “province-managing-county” reform (FPMCR) implemented in 2004 as a quasi-natural experiment, utilizing panel data from 1670 counties in China from 2000 to 2020 to investigate the impact of fiscal decentralization on reduction pollution and carbon emissions (RPCE), as well as its underlying mechanisms. The results show that (1) from 2000 to 2020, China's RPCE shows an overall trend of fluctuating increase, with its value turning positive after 2013. China's RPCE exhibits a spatial pattern characterized by “lower in the north, higher in the south; higher in the east, lower in the west”. (2) After implementing FPMCR, the RPCE levels in reformed counties decreased by −1.44%, showing that reformed county-level governments prioritize economic development over environmental protection. (3) The mechanism analysis found that after implementing FPMCR, reformed counties experienced a 9.16% increase in nighttime light intensity (NLI), and a 3.99% and 4.34% increase in the number of large-scale industrial enterprises (NLIE) and industrial agglomeration (IA), respectively. This suggests that FPMCR leads to radical urbanization and rapid industrialization in counties, which is detrimental to the improvement of RPCE levels. (4) The spatial heterogeneity analysis found that FPMCR's impact coefficient on RPCE levels in the eastern regions is −1.96%, while in the western regions it is −1.16%. This indicates that reformed counties in the eastern regions are more likely to invest expanded fiscal resources in economic development projects, leading to a decrease in RPCE levels. (5) The temporal heterogeneity analysis found that after the promulgation of the “Three-Year Action Plan to Win the Blue Sky Defense Battle” in 2018, the adverse impact of FPMCR on RPCE is completely reversed, leading to a 1.76% increase in RPCE levels. (6) Further analysis reveals that localizing leaders can slow down the promotion of county-level urbanization and industrialization by the FPMCR, benefiting the improvement of RPCE levels. In other words, “the outsider monk will not recite scriptures as well as a local one”. This study has clarified the causal relationship and underlying mechanisms between fiscal decentralization and environmental governance, providing reliable theoretical support for optimizing grassroots fiscal systems and reducing environmental pollution in other transitional economies. It enriches the field of environmental economics related to fiscal decentralization.

Full Text
Published version (Free)

Talk to us

Join us for a 30 min session where you can share your feedback and ask us any queries you have

Schedule a call