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Improve Conservation Culture in China--by Minister Zhou Shengxian of MEP

To address the increasing constraint on resources and the environment, the Suggestions clearly require that we must focus on the development of resource saving and environment-friendly society, actively combat climate change, make more efforts in environmental protection, raise conservation culture level, and follow the path of sustainable development from the strategic height of transforming economic development pattern and open a new situation for scientific development. This is of great significance for achieving economic development, social progress and conservation culture.
I. Promoting conservation culture is an important and urgent strategic task
Based on the grave reality of too big cost of resources and environment in fast economic growth, the development of conservation culture is important strategy and task put forward by CPC in carrying out the outlook on scientific development, and important component of the overall arrangement for the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. President Hu Jintao points out: "The development of conservation culture in fact is the development of resource saving and environment-friendly society based on carrying capacity of resources and the environment, natural law and sustainable development target. " The Suggestions puts the development of conservation culture at a pre-eminent strategic position. China has opportunity and conditions for promoting the development of conservation culture.
(I) Promoting development of conservation culture is an effective approach to address the increasing resource and environment constraints
The Suggestions point out, there is still striking problems of imbalance, uncoordinated and unsustainable development in China with increasing resource and environmental constraints on economic growth. With rapid industrialization and urbanization, increasing total economic strength, continuous rise of population, lack of resources and weak environmental carrying capacity are basic national conditions of China in the new development stage. Although China has made active progress in environmental control and ecological conservation, the overall degradation trend has not been reversed over the past few years. Water, air and soil pollution is still serious with increasing pollution of solid waste, vehicle emissions, POPs and heavy metals, more fragile ecosystem, aggravation of water & soil erosion, reduction of natural forests, and degradation of grassland. Total amount of energy consumption is increasing with relatively low efficiency. The environmental problems of developed countries occurring in different development stages of industrialization over the past 200 years concentrate on the past 20 years in China. Only strengthening conservation of energy & resources, developing circular economy, enhancing environmental governance & ecological development can we effectively remove resource and environmental bottleneck on economic growth.
(II) Promoting the development of conservation culture is objective requirement for accelerating the transformation of economic growth mode
With accelerating of the transformation of economic development mode as the main line, the Suggestions expound the close relationship between the environment and development. In nature, environmental issue is the issue on economic structure, production approach and development path. Talking about environmental protection without economic development is "bark up the wrong tree". Talking about economic development without considerations on environmental protection will be "draining the pond to get all the fish". Environmental protection ensures, facilitates and optimizes the transformation of economic development mode. Environmental carrying capacity is increasingly becoming the main factor constraining economic development scale and space. Implementation of "target-driven mechanism" for environmental protection during economic restructuring and transformation will better promote the whole society following the development path with high productivity, affluent life and good ecology.
(III) Promoting the development of conservation culture is the inherent requirements for ensuring and improving public welfare
The Suggestions point out that we should aim at ensuring and improving public welfare. Environmental protection directly matters living standard, public health, social harmony and stability. With higher living standard, the public has higher and higher requirements for clean water, fresh air, safe food and beautiful environment. One thing we cannot ignore is that environmental pollution and ecological damage become an important factor affecting public health and interests. Adhering to the idea of "environmental protection for the people", we should make more efforts in addressing striking environmental problems threatening public health and practically safeguard environmental rights & interests of the public.
(IV) Promoting the development of conservation culture is a strategic option for seizing the commanding height of competition in post-international financial crisis period
The Suggestions require that we should "consolidate and expand the achievements of addressing the international financial crisis and facilitate long-term steady economic growth and social harmony & stability". The international financial crisis has far-reaching significance and global economy is in the period of new round of structural adjustment, innovation and development. Global resources & environmental issues such as climate change, energy & resource security, conservation of biodiversity will be a long-term challenge confronting the international communities. Green development and circular economy increasingly becomes an important trend in the world. Only by employ environmental protection to optimize economic structure and development mode and seizing the new commanding height of global economic development can we win a good position in new round of international competition.
II. Addressing resource and environment problem at the root and actively explore new path to environmental protection with Chinese characteristics that is low in cost, good in benefits, low in emissions and sustainable in development
Environmental protection is the main platform and basic measures for the development of conservation culture and focus on sustainable development. The Suggestions give in-depth expounds about key strategies and guidelines such as implementation of basic national policy on resource conservation and environmental protection, development of resource saving and environment-friendly society, and raise conservation culture level. The Suggestions put forward many new requirements for enhancement of environmental protection and ecological development and comprehensively identify the main objectives of economic and social development in the "12th Five-Year Plan" period. One of the objectives is significant reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emission per unit GDP, clear reduction of total discharge of major pollutants and significant improvement of eco environment quality. The Suggestions make systematic arrangements for key tasks such as addressing climate change, developing circular economy, making more efforts in environmental protection, and strengthening ecological conservation. To implement key strategy, achieve difficult objectives and do well each major work, we must, with reform & innovative spirit and new horizon, design new thinking, identify new measures and actively explore new path to environmental protection with Chinese characteristics that is low in cost, good in benefits, low in emissions and sustainable in development.
At the 30th anniversary of establishment of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone held in September of 2010, CPC Secretary General Hu Jintao clearly required that we should adapt to new change of situation at home and aboard, "accelerate the shift of economic growth mode according to new requirement for national development and public expectations, and strive for exploring new path to scientific development". Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that to do well environmental protection work under new situation, the key is accelerating the achievement of the "three transformations" of environmental protection work. We will protect the environment during development, develop our economy during environmental protection and achieve the harmony among economic growth, social development, population, resources and the environment. We should not follow the old development path featuring "treatment after pollution". China cannot follow and cannot afford following the old development path of western developed countries that obtains economic growth at the cost of the environment with treatment after pollution and only focusing on end-of-pipe treatment. Some areas in China just confine their work to narrow field of environmental protection or pollution control, or even followed the old path of "treatment followed by pollution" and paid too big environmental cost over the past 30 years since reform & opening up. Based on basic national conditions, economic & social development level and resource &environment status of China, we will carry out the Suggestions and follow a new path to environmental protection with Chinese characteristics that is low in cost, good in benefits, low in emissions and sustainable in development. It is the only way out.
"Low cost" refers to the harmony between environmental protection and economic development and minimum cost of resources and environment to support larger scale economic activities. "Good benefits" refers to the harmony between environmental protection and socioeconomic development and seeking best environmental, economic and social benefits. "Minimum emission" refers to adhering to combining prevention with environmental control of pollution and minimizing adverse impacts on the environment by economic and social activities. "Sustainable" refers to adhering to combining environmental protection with long-term development, and facilitating sustainable economic and social development through developing a resource-saving and environment-friendly society. The Suggestions put forward specific requirements in many aspects, for example "facilitating the harmony among economic & social development, population, resources and the environment", "implementing the conservation strategy", "accelerating the development of resource-saving and environment-friendly production & consumption pattern". This further identifies the guidelines, basic approach and ensuring mechanism for environmental protection.
The above new requirements are reflected in each field of national economy system and aspect of social organization system, employing environmental carrying capacity to optimize regional layout; employing environmental targets to drive the transformation of development mode and employing ecological development to recreate environmental advantage are the fundamental solution to effectively reducing the pressure on environmental governance and reversing ecological degradation trend.
III. Accelerating the development of resource saving and environment-friendly society and strive for the improvement of conservation culture
Facing increasingly enhanced resource and environment constraint, we must strengthen our sense of crisis, establish the idea of green and low carbon development, focus on energy saving and emission reduction, improve the incentive and constraint mechanism, accelerate the development of resource saving, environment-friendly production and consumption pattern to enhance capacity in sustainable development.
(I) Actively address global climate change
Climate change is both environmental issue and development issue. The Chinese Government identifies the target of 40%~45% reduction of CO2 emission per unit GDP by 2020 compared with that of 2005. The Suggestions identify "big reduction of energy consumption intensity and CO2 emission intensity as compulsory targets to effectively control GHG emissions." To address climate change, we will mainly begin our work in such areas as mitigation, adaptation and capacity building. In mitigation of climate change, we will firmly carry out industrial structure, production mode and consumption pattern conducive to conservation of energy & resources and environmental protection; make more efforts in saving energy; raise energy efficiency; adjust energy consumption structure; raise the percent of non-fossil fuel energy sources. We will keep on afforestation, raise forest coverage, add forest reserve to increase carbon sink. In enhancing the capacity in adapting to climate change, we will strengthen early warning monitoring and response to various kinds of extreme weather and climate events. We will set up and improve statistic and monitoring system for GHG emissions and energy saving and emission reduction; strengthen scientific research on climate change; speed up research & development of low carbon technologies and gradually establish carbon emission trade market. In international cooperation on combating climate change, we will adhere to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility" and shoulder reduction responsibility and obligation suitable to development level of China.
(II) Make more efforts in energy saving and emission reduction
Energy saving and emission reduction is the tool for resource saving and environmental protection and needs long-term efforts. The accumulated reduction of energy consumption per unit GDP is 15.61% in the first four years of the "11th Five-Year Plan" period with 9.66% reduction of COD discharge and 13.14% drop of SO2 emission. The Suggestions make clear arrangements for energy saving and emission reduction during the "12th Five-Year Plan" period.
Make more efforts in energy conservation. We will strengthen examination of energy saving target responsibility system, improve energy saving regulations and standards as well as commercialization mechanism of energy and incentives & constraint on relevant enterprises. We will appropriately control total consumption of energy and too rapid growth of industries with high energy consumption, and raise energy efficiency. We will strictly control the development of redundant projects in industries with high energy consumption, high emission; speed up phasing out of outdated productivity; and facilitate optimization and upgrading of industrial structure. We will do well energy saving in key areas such as industry, building and transportation; speed up the implementation of key energy saving projects; extend advanced energy saving technology and products. We will strengthen energy saving management of major units that employ energy and improve energy management. We will accelerate contract management of energy and facilitate the development of energy saving industry. We will carry out energy saving campaign with full public participation and develop the social atmosphere in which people are proud of conservation.
Deepen emission reduction work. We will carry out emission reduction target responsibility system; strengthen reduction and control of pollutants; add more types of major pollutants subject to total amount control --- expanding major pollutants from two to four types, i.e. COD, ammonia nitrogen, SO2, and NOx. We will put emission reduction by industrial restructuring at a more important position, continuously strengthen emission reduction by projects and management, speed up construction of urban sewage and garbage treatment facilities, start the national project of constructing sewage treatment plant in each county, raise sewage treatment rate and loading rate. We will make more efforts in prevention and control of water pollution of key river basins such as "three rivers and three lakes", Songhua River, Xiaolangdi Reservoir in the Yellow River basin, the Three Gorges Reservoir areas, waters sources and areas along the South-North Water Diversion Projects. We will effectively control urban air pollution, keep on enhancing sulfur removal in coal fueled power plants, strengthen denitrofication in power plants, and strictly control vehicle emissions. Taking regional air environment as a whole, we will develop a new mechanism of "unified planning, monitoring, supervision, assessment and coordination" that jointly prevent and control air pollution in the whole region by all stakeholders and public.
(III) Vigorously develop circular economy
Targeting on high efficiency of resources, the Suggestions put forward a series of requirements for promoting the development of circular economy, including strengthening planning and guidance; policy support such as financial and taxation instruments; improvement of relevant laws and regulations; implementation of producer extended responsibility; promotion of development of circular economy in such links as production, circulation and consumption; acceleration of the development of resource recycling industry; strengthen comprehensive utilization of mineral resources; encouragement of recycling and reuse of industrial waste; improvement of resource recycling system & garbage classification and collection system; promotion of the commercialization of resources recycling & reuse; development & application of the technologies that reduce pollutants at the source, recycle or reuse of resources or with zero emissions; and extension of typical mode of circular economy. These requirements are specific and clear and need full efforts and implementation of many measures or policies.
(IV) Make more efforts to address striking environmental problems threatening public health
The Suggestions point out that we should "focus on addressing striking environmental problems threatening public health such as unsafe drinking water and air & soil pollution, strengthen comprehensive environmental control and obviously improve environmental quality". To address environmental problems threatening public health, we must center on the following focuses: keeping on the enhancement of management measures for the protection of drinking water sources, doing well safety ensuring work for water environment of drinking water sources. We should investigate regional environmental risks of enterprises discharging heavy metal pollutants and their surrounding areas in an all round way and effectively address the striking problems of key prevention and control regions, industries and enterprises. We should concentrate our efforts in comprehensive environmental control of chemical enterprises in the vicinity of rivers & lakes and vigorously curb increasing occurrence of environmental pollution accidents in chemical industry. We should strengthen capacity building in supervision on nuclear and radiation safety; effectively control urban noise pollution; give more support to the implementation of "employing award to facilitate pollution control" in rural areas; control agricultural non-point pollution; carry out clean countryside project; start the "pollution control at regional level" in an all round way and develop clean water sources, countryside and homeland.
(V) Practically protect and restore ecology
Good eco environment enables sustainable development of our nation and human beings one generation after another. We will adhere to the principle of prioritizing protection and dominance in natural restoration, and reverse the degradation trend of ecological environment at the source. We will carry out major ecological restoration projects, consolidate our achievements such as protection of natural forests, resuming cropland to the original forest or grassland or resuming grazing land to the original grassland; and protect well grassland and wetlands. We will keep on promoting comprehensive control of desertification and stony desertification. We will strengthen the protection and management of nature reserves, major ecological function areas and coastal areas; treat water and soil erosion; enhance the capacity in reserving water sources, retaining water and soil, preventing wind & dust, and develop national ecological security shelters. Conservation of biodiversity will combine effectively protection and reasonable utilization of biological resources.
(VI) Establish and improve systems & mechanisms conducive to environmental protection
The Suggestions put forward many requirements for the establishment and improvement of environmental protection. We should loss no time in develop macro strategy system as soon as possible for environmental protection suitable to national conditions of China, pollution prevention system that prevents and control all pollutants at all levels, improve high-efficiency environmental governance system, well-established environmental law, regulations, policy and standard system, as well as environmental management system, and social campaigns with public participation. We will further deepen environment impact assessment system, have strict environmental access, conduct strict supervision on law enforcement, establish & improve accountability system for major environmental pollution accidents & events, and keep on special campaigns on environmental protection. With market tools, we will accelerate the establishment of eco compensation mechanism; actively facilitate price reform and environmental charge reform for resource products; reform resource tax in an all round way, collect environmental protection tax, improve environmental science & technology and economic policies such as green taxation, green securities, green procurement and green trade. We will establish and improve the system that polluter pays the full cost, establish diversified environmental investment and financing mechanism and vigorously develop environmental industry.
The development of conservation culture now is progressing from a new historic starting point. As long as we seriously implement the Suggestions, environmental protection cause of will surely obtain fruitful achievements and all the Chinese people will enjoy green mountains, clean water and blue seas!

 

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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