CENEWS-Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang chaired the executive meeting of the State Council on Nov. 15, which deliberated and adopted the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Eco-environmental Conservation (hereinafter referred to as the Plan). Vice Minister Zhao Yingmin was interviewed recently on this Plan.
Q: The 13th Five-Year Plan period from 2016 to 2020 is a decisive stage for completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. What is the significance to drafting this Plan?
A: The Plan is a programmatic document for the eco-environmental conservation in China during the 13th Five-Year Plan period. The preparation and implementation of the Plan is very important in that it is a move to implement the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, carries the new expectations of the whole society for better ecological and environmental quality, reflects the will of the State and the aspirations of the people, and highlights the strategic position of the eco-environmental conservation.
First, the preparation and implementation of the Plan is a major move to take all factors into consideration and press ahead with the overall plan for promoting economic, political, social, cultural, and ecological progresses and coordinate the implementation of the “four comprehensives” strategic blueprint. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC was held, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have put the ecological civilization development and environmental protection on a more important and strategic position and made a series of major decisions and deployments. General Secretary Xi Jinping has come up with a raft of new ideas, thoughts and strategies pursuant to the development of ecological civilization and the protection of the environment, and made the top-down design and identified the strategic direction for the environmental protection in a new era. To prepare and implement the Plan is also a move to implement the guidelines of the important statements of General Secretary Xi and his new ideas, thoughts, and strategies for governing the country, and based on the practical circumstances, turn them into the blueprint for eco-environmental conservation. Therefore, we will grasp the general picture, size up the situation, make scientific plans, take all factors into consideration and promote the implementation of the “four comprehensives”, and hand in a satisfactory answer sheet for protecting the environment amidst our efforts to accelerate the modernization of the environmental governance system and capacity and the implementation of the overall plan for promoting economic, political, social, cultural and ecological progresses.
Second, the preparation and implementation of the Plan is a vivid practice in implementation of the five major development ideas. The fifth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee proposed the five major development ideas of innovation, coordination, green, opening-up, and sharing, which have major impact on the identification of the directions and decisions in the environmental protection sector, and are the theoretical guidance and cardinal principles for the top-down design of environmental protection blueprint in the 13th Five-Year Plan period. In the preparation and implementation of the Plan, we will uphold the five major development ideas in our environmental practices, make breakthroughs through innovation, coordinate to make balances, compensate ecological conservation with green initiatives, promote integration through opening-up, invigorate impetuses through sharing, pad up the short planks in social development, and render sound ecological environment to be a public good and welfare to be shared by all in a moderately prosperous society.
Third, there is a pressing need for preparing and implementing the Plan in order to achieve the first of the two centenary goals. At present, the public demand for sound ecological environment is surging remarkably. However, it is impossible to pad up the short plank of ecological environment without the concerted green initiatives of the government, the industry, and the society. A sound ecological environment is a test stone and yardstick to measure our endeavors, and one of the elements that suggest we have completed the building of a moderately prosperous society. We’ve prepared and implemented the Plan to incorporate the short planks into our plans and ongoing tasks. This is a concrete move taken in the environmental protection sector aiming to enable the public to have a greater “sense of gain” in the course of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society, by way of beefing up the environmental protection efforts, taking effective measures, and upholding perseverance.
Fourth, the Plan is prepared and implemented as an effective approach to holding onto the one core of improving the environmental quality, introducing the toughest environmental protection systems, putting up a good fight in three major battles against air, water, and soil pollution, and enabling the environmental management to be more systematic, science-based, law-governed, delicate, and IT-based. The Plan outlines a whole new overall and strategic blueprint, identifies the targets and tasks, and puts forward specific policy measures for environmental protection. The preparation and implementation of the Plan will provide strong support for the above stated purposes, and meanwhile catalyze the reforms in the area of ecological civilization in order for them to make greater new strides.
Q: What are the main characteristics of the Plan?
A: First, the Plan focuses closely around the overall plan for promoting economic, political, social, cultural, and ecological progresses, implements the five major development ideas, and fully reflects and specifies the deployments and requirements of the Outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development. It stresses the importance to implement the national green development strategies, and enhance the regulation of ecological space. It stresses the importance to promote the structural reform of supply side, facilitate the elimination of obsolete production capacity and overcapacity, and advance the industry’s faster upgrading. It stresses the importance to be guided by green S&T and innovations, and advance the thorough integration of the green initiatives with innovation as the locomotive. It stresses the importance to implement the national major strategies, step up the cooperative environmental protection in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, make specific plans for the protection of the environment in the Yangtze River economic belt on a greater scale, and press ahead with the green “Belt and Road Initiative”.
Second, the Plan centers on the improvement of environmental quality and draws a macro blueprint for the eco-environmental conservation in the 13th Five-Year Plan period. It highlights the systematic interaction between the improvement of environmental quality with reduction of total pollutant load, ecological conservation, and environmental risk prevention and control. It identifies the improvement of environmental quality as the core standard for performance evaluation of all tasks, assigns the control targets and tasks to all regions, basins, cities, and control units, introduces a checklist management system for improving the environmental quality, and advances the leap-forward development of all tasks.
Third, the Plan carries out the requirements for the reform of the ecological civilization institutions and introduces the toughest environmental protection systems. Focusing on the requirement of “introducing the toughest environmental protection systems and establishing a cooperative control system amongst the government, the industry, and the public”, the Plan takes the clear definition of responsibilities, strengthening of regulation, capacity building, and improvement of mechanisms as the cutting points. On this basis, it will see that the local governments assume the responsibility for environmental protection through the tour inspections on environmental protection, the asset-liability statement of natural resources, the audit on natural resources assets on the departure of leading officials, and the ecological damage accountability system; and that the industry assume the main responsibility for environmental protection through environmental justice, pollution permitting, and damage compensation. Also, it will strengthen the market incentive mechanisms and cultivate the market entities through the guidance of taxation policies, resource and environment pricing reform, and green financing, and develop a cooperative control system by the government, the industry, and the public through the reform on the basic environmental governance systems.
Fourth, the Plan upholds the concept that “the mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, and lakes constitute a community of shared life”, and highlights the ecological conservation and restoration. Compared with the previous Five-Year Plan, the Plan adds descriptions on the ecological conservation and restoration, and identifies the cooperation on environmental governance and ecological conservation and restoration. It adds a separate chapter to propose the key tasks and projects on ecological conservation and restoration, and requires that we will, under the guidance of the concept that “the mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, and lakes constitute a community of shared life”, systematically advance the conservation and restoration of such key ecosystems as the forest, grassland, river, lake, and wetland ecosystems, increase the supply of eco-products, and improve the ecosystem stability and ecosystem services.
Fifth, the Plan strengthens the integrated treatment and the concerted promotion of attainment of emission standards, pollution control and reduction, and risk prevention by industries. The Plan stresses such integrated treatment and concerted promotion around the core of the environmental quality. It aims to massively cut down the stockpile pollutants with the full-scale attainment plan as the cutting point, implement pollution reduction projects with the backbone projects as the cutting point, and fulfill the pollution reduction responsibilities through pollution permitting system. Moreover, it takes such key industries as heavy metal, hazardous waste, chemicals, and nuclear and radiation industries as the cutting point, builds up the basic capacity for risk control, and establishes a systematic, multi-layered risk prevention system that runs throughout the whole process which consists of strict ex-anti prevention, tough interim regulation, and ex-post disposal.
Q: The Plan mentions the intention to reform the basic systems for the ecological environment governance. Are there any specific reform measures, and what are they?
A: According to the unified deployment of the CPC Central Committee, in the 13th Five-Year Plan period we will lay the emphasis on establishing a sound and standard pollution permitting system that covers all the stationary pollution sources; introducing a vertical management system for the environmental monitoring, supervision and inspection by the environmental protection branches below province level; drawing ecological conservation red lines on a national scale and strictly observing them; establishing the mandatory environmental pollution liability insurance system; cultivating the market entities in the line of treating non-point source pollution in the agricultural sector and wastewater and garbage in the countryside; conducting pilot projects on deploying environmental regulation and law enforcement branches on a watershed-specific basis; improving the regional cooperation mechanism on prevention and control of pollution in key areas; working to set up cross-region environmental protection agencies; pressing ahead with the development of ecological environment monitoring network, environmental protection tour inspections, ecological damage compensation, and accountability; and reforming the environmental impact assessment system.
So far, the following documents have been printed, distributed, and implemented: the Guidelines on the Pilot Reform for a Vertical Management System for the Environmental Monitoring, Inspection and Supervision, and Enforcement of Environmental Protection Branches below Provincial Level; the Plan for Cultivating the Market Entities in the Line of Treating Non-point Pollution in Agricultural Sector and Wastewater and Garbage in the Countryside; the Technical Guidance for Identification and Evaluation of Eco-environmental Damages; the Implementation Plan for the Development of Eco-environmental Monitoring Network (2016-2020); and the Implementation Plan for the Reform on Environmental Impact Assessment in the 13th Five-Year Plan Period. The environmental supervision has been launched in nine provinces, and pilot projects have been carried out in seven provinces on the reform on eco-environmental damage compensation system. The Measures on the Implementation of the Measures on the Accountability of Leading Party and Government Officials for Eco-environmental Damages (on trial) has been drafted. Moreover, the following documents have been worked out and submitted-Some Opinions on Drawing and Strictly Observing the Ecological Conservation Red Lines, the Implementation Plan for the Pollution Permitting System for Control of Pollutants, the Plan for the Environmental Pollution Mandatory Liability Insurance System, and Regulations on the Environmental Management of Construction Projects (draft amendment). Specifically, the first document was already deliberated and adopted by the 29th session of the central leading group for comprehensively deepening reforms on Nov. 1, 2016. The implementation of other reform measures is under way.
Q: The major projects are the safeguard for the implementation of the Plan. What are the considerations of the Plan for the investments in major projects?
A: The Plan proposes 25 major projects that fall into two categories, i.e., the major projects on environmental treatment and protection, and the ecological projects on mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, and lakes, in order to ensure the implementation of the tasks specified by the Plan, and mobilize the whole society to give inputs to environmental protection. In terms of the investments, the Plan encourages to establish a diversified investment framework, and raise funds through multiple channels, mainly through the industry and local governments. The central government will offer financial supports based on the principle on which the administrative rights between the central government and local governments are divided.
According to the Plan, we will take the initiative to optimize and be creative in the ways to use special funds for environmental protection, and give more support to the third-party treatment of environmental pollution and the PPP model. We will integrate all funds related to the ecological conservation and restoration, as per the requirements for the systematic treatment of the mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, and lakes. We will keep improving the user pays system and give supports to the profitable environmental protection projects. We will actively promote the cooperation between the government and social capitals, work to offset the inputs into pollution control projects and compensate the returns on social capitals with benefits from resource development and comprehensive utilization projects, and attract social capitals to invest in quasi-public benefit and public benefit green projects. We will encourage the establishment of market-based environmental protection funds with social capitals. We will give incentives to the venture capital investment firms, equity investment firms, and social donators for them to invest more in eco-environmental conservation.
Q: The Plan specifies that the people’s governments at all levels assume the main responsibility for the implementation of the Plan. Then what measures will be taken to drive the governments at all levels to effectively perform the environmental protection responsibilities?
A: The following measures will be taken for this purpose:
First, we will steadily press ahead with the central environmental protection inspection. The environmental protection inspection is an important institutional arrangement made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the development of ecological civilization and the protection of the environment. In August 2015, the General Offices of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council jointly printed and distributed the Environmental Protection Inspection Plan (on trial), which requires that a round of environmental inspection be launched every two years in all of the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities in China since 2016. Second, we will organize the environmental protection inspection and arrange interviews with local areas based on the inspection results. Third, we will strengthen such measures as arranging the interviews and restricting the environmental reviews, in order to urge local governments to take active rectification measures. Fourth, we will work harder to evaluate and circulate the local performances. Since the State Council issued the measures for evaluating the performances in implementation of the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Air Pollution in 2014, MEP has worked with relevant State departments to evaluate on a yearly basis the local performances in implementation of this plan and reported the results to the State Council in a timely manner. The evaluation results will be the important basis for not only the performance evaluation of the local leaderships and leading officials, but also the allocation of special funds for air pollution control. For the time being, MEP is paying close attention to having the evaluation measures for implementation of the action plans for water and air pollution control drafted.
Q: How do we boost public participation in environmental protection during the 13th Five-Year Plan period?
A: The public has increasingly growing expectations for environmental protection now, and they are involved in this effort on a larger scale and in a more profound way. The way how the environment is protected is undergoing changes from a top-down approach to the combination of the top-down approach with the bottom-up approach. We will work from the following four angles to deepen the public participation during the 13th Five-Year Plan period in order to shape a good framework in which the whole nation protects the environment.
First of all, we will launch diversified publicity and education programs around the improvement of environmental quality. We will actively use the traditional and new media platforms to disseminate to the public the action plans for water, air, and soil pollution control, as well as the latest progresses and results in environmental protection, create the momentum of “sharing the same fate and working together”, and mobilize the public to adopt a low-carbon, environment-friendly, and green life style.
Second, we will strengthen the institutional development and guide and promote in all respects the public participation in environmental protection. The Ministry will craft and implement public participation plans for the environmental management of major projects, and uplift the level of public participation in an orderly approach at the construction project proposal, implementation, and post-evaluation stages. It will regularly instruct and inspect the local areas on how well these regulations and institutions have been implemented, wrap up the experience, and launch pilot projects in order for the public to participate in environmental protection on a national scale.
Third, we will promote the environmental information disclosure in all respects, and safeguard the public right to know the environmental information. We will make the environmental information and data more lucid and readily available to the people, and get the public timely access to such information issued by the government as the environmental quality status, key policy measures, environmental information of the enterprises and public institutions, the enterprises’ environmental risks, and related information on emergency preparedness plans and environmental emergencies. The platform for the 12369 environmental tipline went live on a national scale in October this year. So far, the Ministry has registered official WeChat and Weibo accounts in an effort to facilitate the sharing of the environmental information on air and water. It also urges the industry to release environmental social responsibility report, puts both the government and the enterprises under the sunlight, strengthens social supervision, and improves the feedback mechanisms.
Fourth, we will expand the public participation channels and support the environmental NGOs to participate in environmental protection in a healthy and orderly way. We will give full play to the active role of the environmental NGOs, print and distribute the Guidelines on Strengthening the Guided Development and Standard Management of Environmental NGOs, and provide policy support for the NGOs to operate in an orderly and effective approach. We will make greater efforts to offer training programs for the environmental NGOs, and by way of increasing project funds, purchasing services, and supporting public benefit litigations, guide the environmental NGOs to mobilize the environmental volunteers to do their parts in environmental protection in an orderly approach. We will gather the social forces to generate the maximum cohesion for treating the environmental pollution and protecting the ecological environment.
Q: How do we guarantee the implementation of the Plan?
A: We will implement the Plan by carrying out tasks in the following five respects. First, we will disseminate the Plan. We will articulate the general requirements, objectives and tasks, and policy measures of the Plan, and mobilize the social forces to participate in environmental protection. Second, we will identify and assign the tasks. We will assign the key tasks specified by the Plan based on the responsibilities, clearly define the responsibilities of State departments, allocate the obligatory targets, and coordinate the State departments to facilitate the implementation of the Plan. Third, we will carry out major projects and reform measures. We will establish a project database, strengthen the project promotion mechanism, and make energetic efforts to work out key reform policies as soon as possible. Fourth, we will advance synergic governance of society. We will improve the social supervision mechanism, unclog the public supervision channels, and take the initiative to organize the public to be part of the implementation process and oversee it. Fifth, we will conduct evaluations. We will regularly monitor and evaluate the progress in implementation of the Plan, conduct interim evaluation at the end of 2018, and final evaluation at the end of 2020. We will report the evaluation results to the State Council, make them public, and incorporate them into the overall performance evaluation system of leading officials.