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National Working Conference on Environmental Protection held in Beijing

The 2017 national working conference on environmental protection is held in Beijing between Jan. 10 and 11. Minister Chen Jining spoke at the conference. (Photo by Deng Jia, CENEWS)

The 2017 national working conference on environmental protection is held in Beijing between Jan. 10 and 11, in an effort to fully implement the guidelines of the 18th National Congress and the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth plenary sessions of the 18th CPC Central Committee, thoroughly implement the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping, and his new concepts, thinking, and strategies for governance of the country, summarize the main progresses made in the passing year, work on the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan for Eco-environmental Conservation, and make deployments and arrangements for the key environmental protection tasks in the year 2017. (Photo by Deng Jia, CENEWS)

Chinese report by Wang Kunting, CENEWS

BEIJING, Jan. 11-The 2017 national working conference on environmental protection was held in Beijing between Jan. 10 and 11, in an effort to fully implement the guidelines of the 18th National Congress and the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth plenary sessions of the 18th CPC Central Committee, thoroughly implement the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping, and his new concepts, thinking, and strategies for governance of the country, summarize the main progresses made in the passing year, work on the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan for Eco-environmental Conservation, and make deployments and arrangements for the key environmental protection tasks in the year 2017. Minister Chen Jining stressed at the conference that we will have a deep understanding and fully implement the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping and his important instructions, adopt more effective approaches to move forward with the implementation of the deployments and policy measures, enhance the people’s sense of gain with improved environmental quality, and greet the victorious opening of the 19th National Congress of the CPC with distinguished achievements.

The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has highly valued the development of ecological civilization and the protection of the environment, since the 18th National Congress of the CPC was held. General Secretary Xi Jinping, with his broad global visions, deep and heartfelt care for the people, and a strong sense of mission, made important instructions on ecological civilization and environmental protection on many occasions, and put forward a raft of new concepts, ideas and strategies, which fully reflected the new atmosphere, new vision, and new thinking of our Party for the governance of our country. Especially in December 2016, General Secretary Xi Jinping gave another piece of long and important instruction on the development of ecological civilization, which highlighted that “The development of ecological civilization is an integral part of the overall plan for promoting the economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progresses and of the ‘four comprehensives’ strategic blueprint. We will thoroughly implement the new development concepts, establish the strong awareness that ‘clean waters and green mountains are tantamount to gold and silver mountains’, and march towards a new era of socialist ecological civilization”. This important instruction, from the vintage point of the overall landscape described by the Party and the State for development, further identifies the strategic position of the development of ecological civilization, stresses the importance and urgency of accelerating the ecological progress, clarifies the key tasks for promoting ecological progress for a period of time to come, reflects the keen aspirations of the General Secretary for accelerated improvement of the eco-environmental quality, and uplifts and deepens our understanding on promoting ecological progress and protecting the environment. Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli also put forward requirements for environmental protection on multiple occasions. They made important instructions right before this conference and specifically required us to give priority to addressing pressing environmental problems, use persistence, adopt a mix of policies, address both the symptoms and root causes of the problems, make headways with reforms in the environmental protection arena, take innovative management approaches, strengthen environmental protection responsibilities, be strict in environmental supervision and enforcement, respond to the public concerns in a timely fashion, step up the ecological conservation efforts, make tremendous efforts to facilitate the constant improvement of air, water and soil environment, and make new contributions to the development of ecological civilization and the building of a beautiful country.

Chen said that we must be more aware of the need to uphold political integrity, keep in mind the bigger picture, follow the CPC as the core of the Chinese leadership, and act consistently with CPC Central Committee policy, before we can have a deep understanding of and fully implement the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi Jinping, and well implement the important instructions of Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. We will understand our responsibilities from a political perspective and be aware that to develop ecological civilization and address environmental problems serves the purposes of our Party and is our unshirkable responsibility. We will pinpoint our position in the bigger picture, fulfill the paramount responsibility of environmental regulation, and urge the local governments, relevant departments, and the industry to take main responsibilities. We will follow the CPC as the core of the Chinese leadership, act consistently with CPC Central Committee policy, implement the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee to the letter, and align with the major policies of the CPC Central Committee and with the General Secretary in each and every environmental task we carry out.

We faced unusually arduous environmental protection tasks in the year 2016, which entailed great workload in a wide spectrum, said Chen. Under the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, the vigorous support of local governments and State departments, and the concerted efforts of the national environmental protection branches, we firmly established the new development concepts and took all factors into consideration while addressing the relation between development and protection. We held onto the right directions, took all factors into consideration and made plans for environmental protection around the center of the improvement of environmental quality. We highlighted the responsibilities, strengthened the responsibilities of local Party committees, local governments, and relevant departments for environmental protection, and urged the industry to comply with laws on pollution discharge. We paid close attention to the implementation, made a list of the key tasks and stepped up the inspections on their implementation, in order to make sure all tasks were carried out right on schedule and with high efficiency. We observed the bottom lines, gave priority to addressing pressing environmental problems, and actively responded to the environmental risks. We highlighted the work styles, fulfilled the main responsibility for comprehensively strengthening the Party discipline, and built a team of faithful, clean, and responsible environmental protectors. All these can be demonstrated by the progresses made in the following fronts.

First, we put up a good fight against air, water, and soil pollution. We implemented the action plan against air pollution and accelerated the upgrading of coal-fired power plants for achieving ultralow emissions. A total of 4.0458 mil. yellow-labeled and used vehicles were taken out of street across China, achieving the annual target by 106.5 percent. We enhanced the area-wide cooperative pollution control effort. As a result, the mean annual concentration of PM2.5 went down 6.0 percent in 338 cities at or above the prefectural level in 2016, and the percentage of clean and fairly clean days went up 2.1 percentage points year by year. We moved forward with the implementation of the action plan against water pollution, intensified the integrated water environment management in basins, carried out the great protection of the Yangtze River economic belt, launched pilot projects on the horizontal eco-compensations in the upper and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, organized the canvassing of black and odorous waters in urban areas, and carried out the integrated rural environment management. In 2016, the share of the surface water monitoring sections that attained Grade Ⅰ~Ⅲ water quality standard under the national monitoring programs went up 5.7 percentage points, and that of the sections with water quality worse than Grade Ⅴ standard went down 2.3 percentage points. We organized the implementation of the action plan against soil pollution, introduced supplementary policy measures, technical guidance and work plans, and worked to draft the rules for evaluation of the implementation efforts. We commenced the development of six pilot areas for integrated soil pollution control, as well as the second batch of pilot projects on the remediation and restoration of soil contamination. We drafted the Master Plan for the National Detailed Survey on Soil Pollution Conditions, and activated the detailed survey upon the approval of the State Council. We issued the National Inventory of Hazardous Wastes, and preliminarily achieved the graded and category-specific management of hazardous wastes.

Second, we moved forward with the supply-side structural reform. We cut overcapacity of the iron and steel and coal industry, and launched thematic inspection on the environmental compliance of the iron and steel, cement, and plate glass producers. We gave full play to the environmental impact assessment as an instrument to prevent pollution at the source, and pressed ahead with the strategic environmental assessment in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area and surrounding area, Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta. We tightened the environmental access of construction projects through the environmental impact assessment, and the central government denied 11 projects that failed to comply with the environmental access requirements because they were highly polluting and energy-and resource intensive, or they were low-level redundant projects, or they aggravated overcapacity. Those projects cost a total of 97 bn. yuan. We improved the policies, standards, and technologies. We perfected the environmental credit system and established green financing system. We released 59 national environmental protection standards, adding the ongoing environmental standards up to 1,732 ones. We deepened the reform on the administrative approval system. We no longer approved the items in the environmental impact form but instead kept such forms in file. All of the 358 environmental impact assessment agencies were dissociated from the national environmental protection branches.

Third, we implemented the reform measures. In terms of the environmental inspections, we launched the pilot inspection in Hebei Province and the first round of central inspections in eight provinces (autonomous region) including Inner Mongolia, and had the second round of central inspection teams stationed in seven provinces (municipalities) including Beijing and Shanghai. We received over 33,000 complaint reports from the public, filed more than 8,500 cases to mete out punishments, with a total penalty of over 440 mil. yuan; filed over 800 cases to make investigations, had 720 individuals detained, arranged talks with 6,307 persons, and held 6,454 persons accountable. In terms of the reform for vertical management for the environmental monitoring, inspection and enforcement by environmental protection branches below provincial level, we commenced the reform in Hebei and Chongqing and made institutional arrangements regarding the environmental inspection system, the environmental inspection commissioner, the eco-environmental committee, and the standardization of the environmental monitoring agencies. In terms of implementing the pollution permitting system for the control of pollutants, we printed and distributed the Provisional Measures for the Management of Pollution Permits, set up a preliminary national pollution permit management information platform, commenced the applications for and granting of pollution permits for the thermal power and paper making industries, launched pilot projects on the management of the pollution permits for elevated pollution sources in some of the cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, and on the river basins in Shandong, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu, and started the pilot projects in the petrochemical industry in Hainan.

In terms of developing the eco-environment monitoring networks, we centralized the monitoring powers of 1,436 municipal air quality monitoring stations under national monitoring program. We established the national surface water monitoring network that consisted of 3,186 monitoring sections. We set up a preliminary national soil environment network, and deployed 22,000 basic monitoring sites and around 15,000 risk monitoring sites. We strengthened the environmental monitoring quality management and cracked down on monitoring data fraud. In terms of drawing the ecological conservation red lines, the leading team of the CPC Central Committee for comprehensively deepening reforms already considered and adopted Some Opinions on Drawing and Observing the Ecological Conservation Red Lines, and all of the provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) already commenced the drawing of the ecological conservation red lines. In terms of the reform on the eco-environment damage compensation system, we printed and distributed such technical specifications as Technical Guidelines for Identification and Assessment of Eco-environmental Damage-General Programme and Technical Guidelines for Identification and Assessment of Eco-environmental damage-Damage Investigation, and launched pilot projects in seven provinces (municipalities) including Jilin.

Fourth, we strengthened the environmental legal support. We improved the environmental laws and regulations and contributed to the enactment of the environmental protection tax law and the environmental impact assessment law, and worked with the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme Procuratorate on the amendment to the Interpretations on Some Issues concerning the Application of Laws in Handling Environmental Pollution Criminal Cases. We continued with the activities launched in the first year to enforce the new environment protection law, arranged talks with the mayors of the municipal governments of seven cities which observed remarkably worsened environmental quality, and urged the local Party committees and governments to fulfill their environmental protection responsibilities. We severely cracked down on environmental violations, applied daily penalty to 974 cases, seal-up and seizure to 9,622 cases, restriction and halt of operations to 5,211 cases, and transferred 3,968 cases with administrative detentions and 1,963 suspected environmental pollution crimes to the police departments. The above figures went up 36 percent, 130 percent, 68 percent, 91 percent, and 16 percent respectively. We enhanced the capacity building for environmental enforcement, launched general drills on it, and urged the community-level environmental inspectors to enforce the laws to the letter and following due protocols. We also worked harder to develop a platform for environmental regulation and enforcement.

Fifth, we intensified the ecological conservation. We strengthened the integrated nature reserves management, monitored the human activities in 446 national nature reserves with remote sensing technology, arranged talks with five national nature reserves including Helan Mountains National Nature Reserve, and monitored the rectifications of another six ones. We stepped up the biodiversity conservation and moved forward with the key projects on biodiversity protection. We launched ecological civilization demonstration initiatives and designated 91 national eco-cities (eco-counties). Zhejiang Province established a Ministry-Province pilot area for building a beautiful country, the first of its kind.

Sixth, we tightened the nuclear and radiation safety regulation. We implemented the national nuclear safety policies, introduced a coordination mechanism for national nuclear safety regulation and kept it running effectively. China maintained good safety records regarding its 35 in-service nuclear power generating units and 19 civil research reactors, and exercised quality control to 21 units that are under way. The radiation environment quality was good.

Seventh, we actively addressed the environmental risks. We took precautions against and relieved the social risks triggered by the environment area; launched thematic inspection on the environmental compliance during the power generating by garbage incinerators, and guided local areas to facilitate project progress in accordance with law. We properly responded to the environmental incidents triggered by natural disasters, dispatched and handled 60 environmental emergencies, and safeguarded the environmental safety and the legitimate rights and interests of the public.

Eighth, we strengthened the support measures. We worked harder with the funding and set up a pool of environmental investment projects for the 13th Five-Year Plan period. We enhanced team building in environmental branches, completed the reorganization of the water, air, and soil management departments, and structured the Ministry’s internal departments by environmental factor. We moved forward with S&T support, international cooperation, publicity and education, and other groundwork, vigorously promoted the eco-environment mega-data projects and the green “belt and road initiative”, registered the microblog and WeChat accounts “MEP Announcement”, and improved our work style in environmental publicity.

Ninth, we made earnest efforts in improving the personal conduct and the work style of the Party and building clean government. We fulfilled the responsibility for comprehensively strengthening Party discipline, and had the leading officials from the Secretary of the Leading Party Group down to the directors to sign a responsibility document on this. We launched the Party building studies and made the intra-Party political life to be more serious. We made earnest efforts to carry forward the inspection and rectification tasks, prepared a list of items to be rectified, and rectified them item by item and as soon as possible. We consolidated the development of the community-level Party organizations, and enabled them to be more united, centered and vigorous.

Chen emphasized that the year 2017 is very significant for the development of the Party and the State and for the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan for Eco-environmental Conservation as well. The national environmental protection branches should grasp the overall requirements of the CPC Central Committee for the economic and social development, correctly analyze the ongoing eco-environmental protection circumstances in China, and have a clear understanding of the difficulties and problems facing the environmental protection. Also, they should center on the improvement of the environmental quality, take the full implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan for Eco-environmental Conservation as the main theme, make comprehensive deployments for winning the fight for strengthening weak points in environmental protection, and specify and implement the tasks and reform measures, in an effort to gain tangible results and greet the victorious opening of the 19th National Congress with distinguished performance.

First, we will resolutely treat the air, water, and soil pollution. We will continue to move forward with the air pollution control, improve the atmospheric environment management system, and make deployments to facilitate the prevention and control of O3 pollution. We will make greater efforts to upgrade the coal-fired power plants to achieve ultralow emissions, treat the scattered coals and the small and scattered business clusters that polluted the environment randomly, phase out medium-and small-sized boilers, and reduce the VOCs emission. We will deepen the environmental management of vehicles, strengthen the consultations on the prediction, forecast, and early warning of heavy air pollution, and continue to beef up the response to such pollution. We will press ahead with water pollution control, focus on the implementation of the action plan against water pollution, and urge local governments to fulfill their responsibilities. We will work with the housing and urban-rural development departments to step up the treatment of black and odorous waters; move forward with the standardization of drinking water sources; and guide local areas to conduct the integrated environmental management of over 28,000 incorporated villages. The industrial clusters will have established wastewater collection and treatment facilities and had automatic online monitoring devices installed as required by the end of the year 2017. We will implement the action plan against soil pollution in full scale, launch the detailed survey on soil pollution conditions, carry out the investigations and evaluation of the soil environment of construction lands, expedite the law-making process of the soil pollution control law, and continue to move forward with the pilot projects on the application of the technologies for the remediation and restoration of soil pollution and on the development of the pilot areas for integrated soil pollution control.

Second, we will deepen and carry out the reforms in the area of eco-environmental protection. We will launch the central environmental protection inspection across the country, organize a “review” of the inspection effects at a proper timing, move forward with the implementation of the environmental decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee, and enable it to be satisfactory. We will steadily facilitate the reform for the vertical management of the environmental monitoring, inspection, and enforcement by environmental protection branches below provincial level, urge the pilot provinces to carry out the reforms based on the practical circumstances, and accomplish the reform tasks by the end of June 2017. We will speed up the implementation of the pollution permitting system and establish as soon as possible a compact and effective environmental management system for stationary sources, a system that centers on the pollution permitting. We will press ahead with the reform on the eco-environment damage compensations, strengthen the coordination, guidance, follow-up evaluation, facilitation and inspection of the pilot reforms, and develop relevant technical guidance for identification and evaluation of the eco-environmental damages. We will improve the environmental economic policies, continue with the development of the environmental credit system, deepen the green financing policies, and work faster to implement the top-runner system for environmental protection.

Third, we will enhance the rule of law in the environmental area. We will continue to tighten environmental legislations and advance the enactment of and the amendment to the water pollution control law, soil pollution control law, and other laws and regulations. We will tighten the environmental regulation and enforcement, continue with the activities launched in the first year for enforcing the environment protection law, maintain a high stance in environmental enforcement, seriously investigate and punish the firms that discharge/emit pollution without a permit, conduct data fraud, or repeat their mistakes, and intensify the investigations into major environmental violation cases. We will implement the attainment plans for industrial pollution sources in full scale, and, in accordance with law, hold the firms that discharge pollutants beyond the limit allowed by their permits for the administrative, civil, and criminal liabilities, in an effort to urge the firms to voluntarily comply.

Fourth, we will actively address the environmental risks. We will improve the framework to take precautions against and alleviate the environmental and social risks, and increase the early warning, the prevention and control of risks in key areas relevant to the public health. We will advance the evaluation of the environmental impact of and the losses caused by the environmental emergencies and support the environmental civil public interest litigations concerning the major environmental emergencies. We will put in place a preliminary system for the monitoring of, investigations into and risk assessment of environment and health.

Fifth, we will strengthen the ecological conservation. We will accelerate the process to draw and strictly observe the ecological conservation red lines, and guide the 14 provinces and municipalities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area and Yangtze River economic belt to complete the drawing. We will facilitate the transition for integrated nature reserve management, strengthen the monitoring of nature reserves by remote sensing technology, and seriously investigate and punish all sorts of violations and irregularities. We will vigorously advance the implementation of the major projects on biodiversity protection and launch biodiversity investigations, evaluation, and observations.

Sixth, we will tighten the nuclear and radiation safety regulation. We will keep the nuclear safety coordination mechanism to run efficiently and facilitate the implementation of the nuclear safety policies. We will disseminate the nuclear safety culture and advance the modernization of the nuclear and radiation safety regulatory framework and the regulatory capacity. We will enable the enterprises to assume the safety responsibility and work faster to develop the human resources for nuclear safety regulation. We will upgrade the supervision-oriented monitoring system in the vicinity of key nuclear facilities and enhance the capacities to respond to nuclear and radiation emergencies and anti-nuclear terrorism activities.

Seventh, we will be creative in the decision-making and management. We will implement the project on development of ecological environment mega-data, improve the eco-environment monitoring network, make tremendous efforts to raise the environmental impact assessment level, improve the environmental standards, technologies, and policies, enhance the public participation, organize routine news briefings, and release authoritative information on environmental protection.

Eighth, we will shore up the S&T support and build the basic capacity. We will advance the S&T innovation and support, go all out to strengthen the basic researches and the R&D of cutting-edge technologies, and provide strong S&T support for the improvement of the environmental quality. We will strengthen the team building, give more attention and care for community-level employees, and gradually improve their working conditions. We will enhance the environmental protection capacity building and improve the professional skill set and capacities of the employees. We will further secure the investments and link the use of funds with the improvement of environmental quality and the performance in the use of funds. We will carry out international cooperation, move forward with the green “Belt and Road Initiative”, and assemble the sixth phase of China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED).

Ninth, we will work harder to improve the work style of the Party, build clean government, and conduct anti-corruption activities. We will thoroughly learn and implement the guidelines of the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, and further enable the Party members to uphold political integrity, keep in mind the bigger picture, follow the CPC as the core of the Chinese leadership, and act consistently with the CPC Central Committee policy. We will strictly observe the political disciplines and rules, strengthen and regulate the intra-party political life, enhance intra-party supervision, and move forward with the improvement of the Party work style and the building of clean government. We will enable the Party members to develop such good work styles as seeking the truth, being pragmatic, blazing new trails, and being responsible, highlight the community level and consolidate the groundwork, so as to build a solid fortress.

Finally, Chen emphasized that we will have a lot on our plate when it comes to the key environmental protection tasks, and we will face considerable workload with very demanding specifications this coming year. Therefore, the national environmental protection branches need to have a deep understanding of the conference’s guidelines and pass them on as soon as possible, grasp the priorities, clarify the goals and tasks, fulfill the responsibilities, and highlight the follow-up work and inspection. Also, they will do well in the trend analysis, strengthen investigations and researches, put forward useful measures, enhance capacity building, pass on the responsibility from upper levels to lower levels, and facilitate the effective implementation of the deployments and policy measures with more effective methodologies.

The conference was chaired by Vice Minister Huang Runqiu. Leader of the Permanent Discipline Inspection Committee Zhou Ying, Vice Ministers Zhai Qing, Zhao Yingmin, and Liuhua, and some senior leaders attended the event.

Comrades with the relevant departments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, the heads of the environmental protection departments/bureaus of the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, sub-provincial cities, the PLA, and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and heads of the Ministry’s internal departments, regional offices, and affiliated institutions also participated.

(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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