Author: Leng Shumei

Posted on: Global Times, December 7th, 2016


China has vowed to launch its strictest environmental protection system and reduce the concentration of PM2.5 particulate pollution in cities with poor air quality by 18 percent by 2020.

China’s State Council on Monday released a national plan on environmental improvements for the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), detailing tasks to clean up polluted air, water and soil, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The plan sets the goals of a more environmentally friendly way of living, considerable reductions in major pollutants, effective control of environmental risks, and a sounder ecological system by 2020. It also includes eight obligatory environmental quality targets in the five-year plan for the first time.

«The plan will give us strong support to improve environmental quality and carry out the stricter-than-ever environment protection policy,» Zhao Yingmin, vice minister of environmental protection, was quoted as saying by China Environment News.

«Unlike previous plans that were aimed at emissions reductions, the 13th plan will focus on overall improvements to environmental quality,» Ma Jun, dean of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Ma said that to achieve the target, supervisory and accountability systems for governments and enterprises need to be strengthened. There should also be a red line, or bottom line, for ecological protection by 2017.

«The plan is in accordance with the increasing importance the Chinese government has attached to pollution management in recent years, as environmental problems have become one of the main obstacles for the country to achieve sustainable development,» Li Zuojun, an environment expert at the Development Research Center of the State Council, told the Global Times.

According to Ma, about 350,000 to 500,000 people die prematurely per year from air pollution in China.

Ma noted that China strengthened the way it has tackled air pollution since September 2013, when the State Council released an air pollution prevention and control action plan.

China launched another two action plans on water pollution and soil pollution separately in April 2015 and May 2016.

Ma said local governments will share more responsibility in carrying out these plans in the next five years.

Local conditions

However, Ma pointed out that different places face different environmental problems, even within the same region, and their governance capacities also vary, posing great challenges for the country’s environment management.

Li said that specific policies should be made by local governments according to local conditions.

Beijing’s information office released an updated emergency response plan for severe air pollution in late November, aiming to better address air pollution with minimal disturbance to people’s lives, Xinhua reported.

According to the new response plan, which will become effective on December 15, the use of certain vehicles will be restricted when an alert is issued.

North China’s Hebei Province last week also passed the country’s first regulations on the development of the circular economy. According to the regulations, Hebei will apply stricter standards, compared to national and industry ones, on energy consumption and pollutant emissions from iron and steel, coal, electric power and chemical enterprises, Xinhua reported.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region also established a cooperative mechanism in 2013 for a joint emergency response to heavy air pollution and information sharing.

According to the plan, Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province, as well as regions along the Yangtze River Economic Belt, are required to draw up a red line for ecological protection by the end of 2017, while other areas should come up with a red line before the end of 2018.

Coal use in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Henan, and regions along the Pearl River Delta should drop by around 10 percent during the 2016-2020 period, while consumption in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui should fall by 5 percent, read the plan.

«Pollution in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei is mainly caused by the high coal consumption of resource-intensive industries,» Li said, noting that the government is stressing pollution measures more in major economic and population centers.
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