The "12th Five-Year Plan" clearly points out: to address increasing constraint of resources and the environment, we must accelerate the development of resource-saving and environment-friendly society and uplifting ecological civilization. What plan does Ministry of Environmental Protection have? How do we obtain greater achievements in environmental control and ecological conservation in the next five years with fast and sound economic growth? Seeking answers to the above questions, a journalist from China Environment News interviewed with MEP Minister Zhou Shengxian.
Urgency in developing ecological civilization
Journalist: Environmental governance and ecological protection in our country have made active achievements during the "11th Five-Year Plan" period under the circumstance of out-of-expectation of economic growth rate and total energy consumption. However, fast economic growth leads to huge cost of resources and the environment. How do we obtain greater achievement in environmental protection cause in our country during the "12th Five-Year Plan" period?
Zhou Shengxian: Promoting development of ecological civilization is an effective approach to address the increasing resource and environment constraints. The unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustained development problem in our country is still pre-eminent and resource and environment constraints on economic growth are strengthening. With rapid industrialization and urbanization, continuous expansion of GDP, rising population, lack of resources and weak environment carrying capacity are the basic national conditions of our country in the new development stage.
Environmental governance and ecological protection in our country have made active achievements over the past few years. But the overall degradation trend of eco environment basically has not been reversed. Water, air and soil pollution are still serious. The amount of pollution of solid waste, vehicle emission, POPs and heavy metals keep on rising with worsening water and soil erosion, reduction of natural forests, grassland degradation and more fragile ecosystem. Total energy consumption keeps on growing, but energy efficiency is not high. The environmental problems of developed countries occurred in different stages of their 200-year industrialization process concentrate on in current development stage of our country. Only beefing up conservation of energy & resources, developing circular economy and strengthening environmental governance and eco development can we effectively overcome resource and environment constraint during economic development.
Acceleration of the transformation of economic development mode is the main line of the "12th Five-Year Plan". Development closely depends on the environment. In nature, environmental issues are the issues of economic structure, production pattern and development path. Talking about environmental protection without consideration of economic development is "climbing a tree to catch a fish". Talking about economic development without consideration of environmental protection is "draining the pond to catch all the fish". Environment carrying capacity increasingly becomes a main factor constraining economic development scale and space. Translating the "target driven mechanism" of environmental protection into industrial restructuring and economic transformation will better facilitate the whole society follow the development path with high productivity, well-off life and good ecology.
Follow a new path to environmental protection
Journalist: What are the main objectives of environmental protection during the "12th Five-Year Plan" period？How can we obtain greater achievements in environmental protection while our economy develops fast and well?
Zhou Shengxian: Environmental protection is the main platform and fundamental measures for the development of ecological civilization. It is a focal point and direction for promoting sustainable development. One of main objectives of economic and social development during the "12th Five-Year Plan" period is major progress in strategic adjustment of economic structure, big reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emission per unit GDP, significant reduction of total release of major pollutants and remarkable improvement of eco environment quality.
Some regions of our country just confined environmental protection or pollution to the matter at issue and even followed the old path of "treatment after pollution" of western countries in the past 30 years since 1979, they have paid too big cost of the environment. Therefore, based on basic national conditions of our country, it is our way out to explore and follow a new path to environmental protection that is small in cost, good in benefits, low in emission and sustainable in development.
"Small in cost" refers to adherence to harmony between environmental protection and economic development and supporting greater scale economic activities with minimum resource & environment cost. "Good in benefits" refers to adherence to overall plan for environmental protection and socio-economic development and seeking for the best environmental, economic and social benefits. "Low in emission" refers to adherence to combination of pollution prevention and environment governance and minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of economic & social activities. "Sustainable in development" refers to adherence to the combination of environmental protection with long-term development. With development of resource-saving and environment-friendly society, we will promote sustainable economic and social development.
The requirements for "small in cost, good in benefits, low in emission and sustainable in development" will be reflected in all fields of national economic system and all areas of social organization system. Employing environment carrying capacity to optimize regional layout, environment improvement to force the shift of development mode and eco development to create environmental advantages are the fundamental measures for effective mitigation of pressure on environmental governance and reverse of biological degradation.
Accelerate the development of environment-friendly society
Journalist: Facing increasing grave environmental protection situation, how will Ministry of Environmental Protection address it in the next five years？What will the priority work areas in the future?
Zhou Shengxian: Facing increasing constraints of resources and the environment, we must firmly set up the idea of green and low carbon development, focus on energy saving and emission reduction, accelerate the development of production and consumption pattern that save resources and are friendly to environment, and strengthen capacity in sustainable development.
First, actively address global climate change. Our government has decided to greatly reduce energy consumption intensity and CO2 emission intensity and effectively control GHG emissions by 2020. To achieve this target, we should firmly carry out the industrial structure, way of production and consumption pattern conducive to conservation of energy & resources and environmental protection; raise energy efficiency and adjust energy consumption mix.
Second, deepen emission reduction. During the "12th Five-Year Plan" period, we will carry out reduction target responsibility system and strengthen reduction and management of pollutants. We will put emission reduction by industrial restructuring at a more important position, effectively control urban air pollution, strictly control vehicle emissions, and take regional atmospheric environment as a whole for arrangements.
Third, vigorously develop circular economy. Targeting on high efficiency of resources, we will beef up planning, guidance and policy support in terms of finance and taxation, improve laws and regulations and facilitate the development of circular economy in all links such as production, circulation and consumption. We will extend typical mode of circular economy and promote trial work on development of low carbon cities.
Fourth, focus on addressing pre-eminent environmental problems threatening public health. Focusing on addressing pre-eminent environmental problems threatening public health such as unsafe drinking water and air & soil pollution, we will beef up comprehensive control and improve environmental quality. We will strengthen capacity building in supervision on nuclear and radiation safety and effectively control urban noise.
Fifth, practically protest and restore ecology. We will keep on prioritizing conservation and natural restoration and carry out major ecological restoration projects. We will continuously promote comprehensive prevention and control of desertification and stony desertification. We will strengthen the protection and management of nature reserves, major eco function areas and coastal areas and protect biodiversity.
Sixth, establish and improve system & mechanism conducive to environmental protection. We will develop macro strategic system suitable to basic national conditions of our country; further deepen environmental impact assessment system; improve accountability system for major environmental events and pollution accidents; actively facilitate pricing reform of resource products and reform of environmental charge; levy environment tax; improve the "polluters pay" system and vigorously develop environmental protection industry.
(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)