At a time of dreadful air and water quality, manufacturers are this year required to commit to set levels of pollutant emissions until 2020, after which they must apply for five-yearly licences.
The policy has been viewed in some circles as ineffective. Its critics suggest that it has placed impractical responsibilities on companies, and that it lacks appropriate environmental supervision.
Yet advocates claim the system will encourage companies to set stricter pollution limits, especially if they are given preferential electricity prices and government incentives to do so.
The goal of the new system has been to clear out past vagueness and introduce stricter supervision by monitoring pollutant discharge by business, instead of by administrative area. This is also expected to force licensing applications to be done earlier, before a project breaks ground, as businesses set out their environmental plans and authorities monitor pollution in advance.
Plans must include an official environmental protection catalogue that lists pollutant discharge. With a catalogue in place, companies can then apply for the licence by stating their pollution variety, amounts and concentration.
Government departments have been told to conduct more frequent inspections, and have also been given the right to punish emissions offenders by limiting production, suspending licences and shutting down plants.
An information platform, where the licence applications, verifications and supervision will be available to the public, will also be designed.
According to industry analyst CCM, the policy may well have an impact on the sweetener industry, due to the high levels of pollution its manufacturers are said to produce. Some pollutants from the production of sucralose, for example, are not easily biologically degraded.
Smaller producers, which cannot afford the treatment equipment required for the licence, will be hardest hit. Bigger manufacturers will also see their production reduced.
“The whole output of the sweetener industry in China may decrease the next years,” CCM added.