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Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie interviewed at the “Minister’s Passage”
Source: Translated by Information Center2018-03-22
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On Mar. 19, Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie takes questions from the reporters on “winning the defense battle for blue skies” at the “Minister’s Passage”. Photo by Cheng Gong

On Mar. 19, Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie took questions from the reporters on “winning the defense battle for blue skies” at the “Minister’s Passage”.

Speaking of his appointment as the first Minister of Ecology and Environment, Li said he felt more stress that come with greater responsibilities and gained more confidence based on improved circumstances. He vowed to fulfill his due responsibilities and live up to the trust and expectations of the Party and the people.

China has made all time high achievements in the building of an ecological civilization and the ecological and environmental protection, and experienced historic changes since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, as a result of which the ecological conditions and environmental quality have been improved, and abundant practices and experience have been accumulated in this arena, laying a solid foundation for better protecting the ecological environment in the future.

Also, the newly established Ministry of Ecology and Environment integrates the functions of the former Ministry of Environmental Protection with some functions of six other ministries and commissions, a reshuffle that addresses a myriad of chronic problems in the area of ecological and environmental protection and creates better conditions for future protection. We are highly confident and determined to, under the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, do a better job based on previous work, accelerate the pace of improving the ecological and environmental quality, and provide more quality ecological goods to meet the ever-growing demand of the people for a beautiful ecological environment.

In response to a question about how to successfully defend the blue skies, Minister Li came up with four proposals. First, we will highlight the priorities. We will prioritize the primary improvement factor-PM2.5 and focus on tackling the air pollution in the key regions, sectors and areas, and during key periods in our defense battle.

Second, we will optimize the structures. We will improve the industrial structure, cut overcapacity and eliminate inefficient production capacity, rectify the “small and sporadic polluters”, and urge the industrial sectors to comply with emission standards, specifically, enabling the iron and steel makers and thermal power generators to be upgraded to realize ultra-low emissions. We will optimize the energy structure, step up the phase-out of small coal-fired thermal power generating units that are unable to meet the emission standards, steadily promote the “gas for coal” and “electricity for coal” projects in the rural households, and tap the clean energy sources. Furthermore, we will better the transportation structure, work tirelessly to shift the mode from highway transportation to rail transportation, rectify the diesel-fueled cargo trucks that emit excessive pollution, take more yellow-tagged vehicles and obsolete vehicles out of street, and vigorously develop new energy cars. Also, we will optimize the land use structure. We will continue with the massive afforestation and greenery initiatives, significantly raise the forest and grass coverage, and tackle the environmental problems from surface mining.

Third, we will strengthen the supports. We will scale up the environmental compliance inspection, the central environmental protection inspection, the regional cooperation on pollution control, the science and technology innovation, and awareness-raising and outreach activities.

Fourth, we will meet the objectives. The concentration of fine particulate matter PM2.5 will drop notably, the number of days with heavy air pollution will be much less, the air quality will be significantly improved, and the people will have a much stronger sense of happiness that comes with blue skies.

With respect to the “gas for coal” and “electricity for coal” projects, Li shared three understandings. First, we will be keenly aware of the important role those projects play in the improvement of air quality. The air pollutants emitted from burning one ton of bulk coals is 10 to 15 folds of the emissions from burning the same amount of electricity coals. Considering that around 50~60 mil. t bulk coals are burned every year in the “2+26” cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and surrounding areas, they contribute considerably to air pollution.

Second, during the shift to the new energy sources, we will always bear in mind the interests of the local people and make sure they get sufficient heat supply. In an attempt to address the gas shortages for heat supply between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20 last year, the former Ministry of Environmental Protection assembled as soon as possible 839 inspection teams with a total of 2,367 environmental staff and toured around the villages and communities that were supposed to have alternated from coal to gas and electricity for winter heating in the above said 2+26 cities. The inspectors checked 385 counties (cities, districts), 2,590 townships (towns, subdistricts), and 25,220 villages and communities, and found 215 villages and communities that had problems with heating. So they helped them with the heat supply and established a telephone or online tipping mechanism to help keep the local residents warm in cold winter.

Third, we will be deeply aware that to promote clean heating for the northern part of the country to winter through is one of the major decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee to tackle air pollution and haze. We will stick to this endeavor. As a resource in short supply, the nature gas values variably if used in different sectors. For now and for a period of time to come, the natural gas brings the highest benefits when used to improve the way how people get heat in the winter. It not only generates handsome environmental benefits, but also yields considerable social benefits and raises the living standards of local residents. Therefore, local areas and departments concerned should take the initiative to support the implementation of this major strategy of clean heating.