Since the promulgation of the Cardinal Law for Environmental Protection for the first time in 1979, China has successively granted local independent environmental legislative power in the Constitution and relevant laws. The revision of the Legislative Law in 2015 means that China’s local environmental legislation has entered a new era. Taking the green, low-carbon and high-quality development path, the increasingly strict and improved urban environmental legislation system should play an important role.
First, based on the non-radial Dynamic Network Slacks-Based Measure model, this paper dynamically calculates the low-carbon transition index of 267 cities at the prefecture level and above in China from 2003 to 2018. Second, taking the implementation of urban environmental legislation as a quasi-natural experiment, this paper uses the DID model to investigate the impact of urban environmental legislation on the process of low-carbon transition. It is found that the implementation of urban environmental legislation can significantly promote the process of low-carbon transition, and the effect increases with the improvement of legislation intensity. Compared with other types of environmental legislation, comprehensive environmental legislation and air pollution environmental legislation are more conducive to promoting low-carbon transition. In addition, urban environmental legislation plays a more significant role in promoting the low-carbon transition of innovative policy pilot cities, non-old industrial cities, cities in “two control areas”, and cities in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River economic belt. The mechanism test shows that urban environmental legislation mainly promotes low-carbon transition through the supervision effect of environmental information disclosure and the upgrading effect of industrial structure. The expansive analysis shows that urban environmental legislation also has a positive spatial spillover effect. That is, it has a significant positive impact on the low-carbon transition of neighboring cities.
The innovations of this paper are as follows: First, it incorporates environmental legislation into the theoretical model of two sectors of urban economy and deeply explores the internal transmission channels of environmental legislation affecting urban low-carbon transition. Second, based on the non-radial DNSBM model, it dynamically evaluates the process of China’s urban low-carbon transition by considering the urban internal network structure and time intertemporal factors in two dimensions. Third, using the text quantitative analysis method, it constructs the differentiation index of urban environmental legislation intensity and examines the impact of heterogeneous environmental legislation types and environmental legislation intensity on urban low-carbon transition. Fourth, through the spatial DID model, it analyzes the spatial spillover effect of environmental legislation on urban low-carbon transition to provide policy reference for continuously optimizing the regional layout of green low-carbon development.