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A Masterpiece to Review the Past, Guide the Present and Plan for the Future

People's Daily Publishes an Article by Minister Zhou Shengxian

The macro strategic study of China's environment, approved by the State Council, is a basic, prospective and strategic project in the field of environmental protection. Since its inception in March 2007, a research team, established the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Ministry of Environmental Protection and consisting of over 50 academicians from two institutes and several hundred experts, has carried out systematic and in-depth studies through cooperation with many departments, fields and disciplines. With kindly care and effective guidance of the state leaders and based on the overall requirement of reviewing the past, guiding the present and planning for the future as well as the major strategic issues in the field of environmental protection, the team made a series of policy recommendations for the strategic thought, guidelines, targets, tasks and measures on China's environmental protection. The research results, which are influential to national decision-making and scientific development, have become an encyclopedia on environmental protection and a role model for cross-sectoral, industrial and disciplinary cooperation.
The landmark result of the strategic study is the proposal to actively explore a new path to China's environmental protection featuring low cost, good benefit, low emissions and sustainability. By saying low cost, we mean to keep coordinated development of environmental protection and the economy so as to support larger economic activities at the lowest resource and environmental cost possible. Good benefit refers to coordinate environmental protection and economic and social development persistently to seek best environmental, economic and social benefits. Low emissions represent combination of pollution prevention and environmental improvement in a bid to minimize the harmful impact of social and economic activities on the environment. What we call sustainability seeks integration of environmental protection and long-term development. The effort to build a resource-saving and environment-friendly society will help promote social and economic development in a sustainable way.
The purpose of the study is to apply the research results, guide our practice, make breakthroughs and propel us to make achievement in our work. Leaders of the State Council value the translation and application of the research results of macro strategic study of the environment. I would like to make a few points on how to implement the important instructions of the leadership and make good use of the research results.
The 12th Five-Year Plan period is filled with hope for China's environmental cause. We must grasp the theme of scientific development, the main task of transforming the mode of economic development and the new requirement of elevating the level of ecological civilization while accelerating green development, promoting historic transformation of environmental protection and continuing exploration of a new path to environmental protection. In specific, we should proceed from the new start, pay attention to hard issues, solve key problems and create highlights in a bid to open up a new situation of environmental protection in the 12th Five-Year Plan period.
1. Proceeding from the new start and planning for new progress of environmental cause in the 12th Five-Year Plan period
Since the 11th Five-Year Plan, the country has made reduction of major pollutants the binding target of national plan for economic and social development and worked hard on prominent environmental problems that harm scientific development and people's health. With unremitting effort, discharges of SO2 and COD have fallen by 14.29% and 12.45% respectively compared with 2005 level, both of which exceeded the set targets. This concentrates the new progress in China's environmental work in the past five years.
The outline for the 12th Five-Year Plan period has made a comprehensive arrangement of China's social economic development in the next five years. With regard to environmental protection, it identifies a reduction of 16% and 17% for energy consumption per unit of GDP and CO2 respectively compared with 2010 level and a cut of 8% for each of the total discharges of SO2 and COD and 10% for each of total discharges of NH3-N and NOx. These were put into the outline as the binding targets. At the beginning of the 12th Five-Year Plan period, environmental protection is fresh from a new historical start, setting its foot on a new journey to scientific development, accelerated transformation of economic development mode and improvement of people's well-being.
2. Grasping the hard issues and promoting integration of environmental protection and economic development
Environmental protection faces the most difficult period and complicated issues at the primary stage of socialism because at this stage it is impossible to protect the environment by putting an end to economic development, but it is also impossible to tolerate pollution. If we only apply ourselves to economic development and ignore the environment, the process will be as simple as seeking development at will. If we only mind the environment and put economic development aside, the simple result would be that we would do nothing. What we are facing is that at the primary stage of socialism we must grow the economy while protecting the environment. Environmental problems, in nature, are problems related to economic structure, mode of production and the development path. It will be fruitless to talk about environmental protection without economic development, whereas the consequence of economic development disregarding environmental protection is like to drain the pond the get the fish in it. The right economic policy is the right environmental policy, and vice versa. Environment and development are the two sides of a coin, indispensable to each other and closely associated with each other.
We must take both development and environmental issues into consideration while advancing industrialization, urbanization and the drive to build a new socialist countryside. We should keep to the approach that environmental protection and economic development go hand in hand, steer well environmental protection in terms of its direction, target and extent and bring under control the irreversible environmental pollution and ecological damage in order to coordinate and integrate environmental protection with economic development.
If we are to integrate environmental protection and economic development, we must make great effort on all sides, from national strategic level, to accelerating the transformation of economic development mode, the whole process of reproduction and heightening the level of ecological civilization. We need to incorporate the requirement of environmental protection into the whole process of socioeconomic development so that all links of economic development will benefit environmental improvement. Meanwhile, environmental protection will also be an active player in macro economic control by bringing into full play its role in optimizing economic development and promoting transformation of economic development mode and economic restructuring.
3. Making breakthrough in major issues to ensure evident progress in scientific development and improvement of people's well-being
Making breakthrough in major issues requires us to grasp the main contradiction and the primary aspect of contradiction with a strong mind to overcome difficulties. Once the major issues are solved, the whole situation will turn for the better. The focus of environmental work in the 12th Five-Year Plan period is to solve prominent environmental problems affecting scientific development and harming people's health, serve the needs of scientific development and safeguard public health.
First, we will make good use of various instruments of environmental threshold such as environmental impact assessment, total pollution control and environmental standard. Second, we will tighten up environmental law enforcement and supervision. We will focus on outstanding environmental problems harming people's health including unsafe drinking water, air and soil pollution and heavy metal pollution. We will intensify special environmental campaigns to rectify illegal polluting companies and safeguard people's health. Third, we will quicken our steps to establish and improve all kinds of mechanisms to ensure smooth advance of environmental work such as environmental investment mechanism, pricing mechanism and market allocation mechanism that reflect environmental cost, the mechanism of joint pollution prevention and control on a regional scale, innovation mechanism for environmental science and technology, official performance assessment mechanism and multi-stakeholder joint action mechanism.
4. Creating highlights and making the mechanism of pollution reduction play a more positive role
Creating highlights is a process where we bring out our strong points and edges and let them play an increasingly important role. We overtook the pollution reduction targets in the 11th Five-Year Plan period, which became a big highlight of environmental work. In the next phase, we will intensify the work more thoroughly and create more highlights in other fields of environmental protection.
We will keep a firm grip on pollution reduction and strive to win the first battle. The pollution reduction indicators in the 12th Five-Year Plan period were added from two indicators, SO2 and COD to four items including NH3-N and NOx. We have to continue reducing the existing pollutants while assimilating the increment, so the task is getting more and more demand. This year the situation we are facing remains complicated. Localities are pressured by investment urge and the need to make arrangement on newly added binding targets. It's quite a big task for us to accomplish it. We must work hard on pollution reduction to ensure discharges of the four major pollutants will all be cut down by 1.5% compared with 2010 level.
We will continue to strengthen various measures for pollution reduction. Pollution reduction through economic restructuring will be put at a more important position and pollution reduction through environmental projects and management will be stepped up. We will stick to comprehensive pollution prevention and control, solve key issues and exercise efficient administration. We will create a new work pattern with pollution reduction as the mainstay, which has become the priority of environmental work. The whole environmental system shall go all out to work on it and repeat the success.


(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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