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Speech at the 4th Meeting of CCICED Phase III(Qu Geping)


  Respected Mr. Chair, Vice Chairs, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  At present, the Chinese Government is formulating the Framework of the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development. During the "10th Five-Year" period, China made tremendous efforts in environmental protection and achieved new progress in a number of areas. In order to tackle pollution problems from their sources, active efforts were made to promote industrial restructuring and to transform the traditional industries through the adoption of new technologies and phasing out a large number of heavily-polluting enterprises. Thanks to the integrated approaches adopted to tackle urban environmental problems, some cities now have notably better environmental quality, and over 40 cities were designated "National Model Cities for Environmental Protection (NMCEP)". Ecological conservation and restoration were also given high priority. The national programs of "converting cropland back to forest", of "converting grazing land to grassland", and of "converting farmland back to lakes" were continued. Due to these and other programs, China's forest coverage is now higher and the ecological situation in some areas has turned for the better. New progress has also been made in controlling pollution, and the total volume of industrial pollution has dropped significantly.

  It is worth mentioning that the nation-wide education campaign on the concept of "scientific development" has deepened the understanding of development related issues by government officials at all levels. We have taken a new step towards transforming the traditional development patterns, developing circular economy, and adopting a new path for industrialization. Currently, local governments are in the process of formulating plans for promoting circular economy, and have implemented some pilot or demonstration projects.

  However, China is still facing a rather grave environmental situation at present, and the challenge will remain severe for a long time in the future. During the "Eleventh Five-Year" period, the pressure on resources and the environment will be mounting due to rapid urbanization and industrialization. Therefore, we must not be complacent.

  The root of environmental problems in China lies in the extensive economic growth mode, improper public policies, and lack of effective management. We need to adopt more far-sighted and more proactive policies and measures in the following areas:

  First, we must speed up the adjustment of the industrial structure. In addition to making efforts to raise the environmental awareness of governmental officials and the public, we should put forward more specific compulsory requirements on resource conservation and environmental protection. In particular, there should be clear technical standards for industrial sectors regarding the conservation of resources, especially energy and water resources. For the time being, attention should be focused on the "Eight Key Sectors", the entry into which should be conditioned upon compliance with the relevant technical standards so as to promote technology upgrading and structural adjustment.

  Second, we should actively support the development of circular economy. Circular economy is not only a path towards economic sustainability, but also a fundamental solution to environmental problems. We should transform the traditional sectors and develop new sectors according to the requirements of circular economy. The designing of new industrial enterprises and parks should be in line with the basic requirements of circular economy. Taxation and credit policies should also be designed in favor of the industrial enterprises and parks which meet the relevant requirements of circular economy.

  Third, we should improve the natural resource pricing system. Active measures should be adopted to reduce and eventually eliminate governmental subsidies to resource extraction and consumption activities. Market instruments, such as resource taxation and pricing policies, should be adopted. This will help improve the efficiency of resource utilization, reduce waste, and prevent environmental pollution.

  Fourth, we should strengthen our efforts to prevent and control urban air pollution. Environmental considerations should be integrated into urban energy and transportation plans and policies. If the current trend continues, it would be difficult for us to make significant progress in improving the air quality of cities during the "11th Five-Year" period. It is questionable that the large and middle-sized Chinese cities will attain Grade II air quality standards by 2020, let alone all Chinese cities. By 2020, we will have spent 40 years on controlling urban air pollution. It would be unjustifiable if we still cannot solve urban air pollution problems by then. We therefore recommend that the State Council make mandatory requirements regarding compliance with urban air quality standards by cities within prescribed time limit.

  Fifth, we must make rational use of water resources and prevent and control river basin pollution problems. Ecological degradation and water pollution have been worsening in river basins, especially cross-regional river basins. Integrated planning and management are urgently needed for river basins to promote the rational use of water resources and the prevention and control of water pollution. In formulating economic plans, the availability of water resources should be a precondition for economic development. Provided that there is sufficient water supply for ecological conservation purposes, the other uses of water resources should be properly coordinated. The total volume of pollution load for each river basin should be controlled, and a water pollution permit system should be implemented for all river basins. It would be an outstanding achievement if the key river basins, river sections and lakes could comply with the relevant water quality standards and if our drinking water sources are effectively protected.

  Sixth, we must strengthen the enforcement of laws and regulations. China has already enacted 26 laws on pollution control and resource conservation, and will promulgate a few more within the next few years. The State Council and local governments have also enacted numerous regulations. These laws and regulations cover every major area of environmental protection. In addition, every previous Five-Year Plan by the central government has had components of environmental protection. But why are these laws and regulations not properly enforced? There are a lot of reasons, one of which is the lack of authorities by the environmental agencies for supervision and administration. For example, Environmental agencies often meet with a lot of local resistance in dealing with illegal polluters and carrying out environmental impact assessment (EIA) for construction plans or projects. Therefore, the State Council and the local governments should provide necessary support for the environmental agencies to exercise effective supervision. In the mean time, environmental agencies should be committed to performing their duties conscientiously. If the environmental laws and regulations are properly implemented, many of the environmental problems can be avoided, and China's environmental situation will be much better.

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