China redoubles efforts toward "Beautiful China" by 2035
By Rabi Sankar Bosu
The 8th National Conference on Environmental Protection concluded in Beijing on May 19, 2018, declaring China's "toughest-ever" combat against air, water and soil pollution toward a "Beautiful China" by 2035. Speaking of prominent environmental problems, President Xi Jinping emphasized in his critical speech: "We must speed up the construction of an ecological civilization system and ensure that by 2035 the ecology and environment is fundamentally improved and that our goal of building a beautiful China is basically achieved." Undoubtedly, Xi's speech has highlighted China's top-level design and national strategies for ecological progress that have set a good example of pollution prevention to the developing countries grappling with climate change, pollution and habitat depletion.
Tourists view the Namtso Lake in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Oct. 2, 2015, the second day of the National Day holidays.[Photo: Xinhua]
It is worth mentioning that China has been playing an important part in boosting the globalization of green development. Hailing China's ecological renewal model, Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) remarked on May 18: "I think environmental changes in China for the last five years has been the fastest in human history, very amazing and positive." Undoubtedly, President Trump's retreat from the Paris Climate Agreement put China 'in the driver's seat' in the fight against climate change.
The two-day national conference is clearly in line with the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October in which President Xi Jinping vowed to speed up reforming the system for enhancing ecological advancement and continuing the "Beautiful China Initiative." In his speech at the tone-setting meeting, he further stressed acting on the principles of prioritizing resource conservation and environmental protection and letting nature restore itself, developing spatial layouts, industrial structures, ways of work and life that help conserve resources and protect the environment.
It is important to note here that the basic framework for "ecological civilization," a development priority made by President Xi Jinping, took shape at the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. In 2015, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council expounded opinions on accelerating the promotion of ecological progress which are considered to be the prime guideline in the field of ecological and -environmental protection in China.
As environment protection has become a key issue faced by all people, the Chinese government has taken a series of steps to develop an ecological civilization to build a beautiful China. On March 5, 2014, at the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang declared "war" on pollution. He described smog as "nature's red-light warning against inefficient and blind development." China's systematic efforts to combat air, water and soil pollution have achieved remarkable results in limiting particulate matter (PM2.5), echoing President Xi Jinping's vow to fight pollution with an "iron hand."
China aims to strike a balance between humans and nature to make notable achievements in reducing pollution by 2020, as well as to garner fundamental improvements in its ecology by 2035. President Xi has placed top priority on cleaning up smoggy skies, dirty rivers and toxic soil, since "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets." He urged solid efforts to win the "three tough battles" of preventing financial risk, reducing poverty and tackling pollution.
It is heartening to see that as Xi pushes the construction of ecological civilization as a fundamental plan for the sustainable development of the Chinese nation, officials at every level of government are working to put his words into action. China has started to conduct central environmental inspections, carried out guidelines to control air, water and soil pollution, published its own plans to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is implementing a national plan to tackle climate change.
In the past five years, one of the most remarkable achievements China has truly made is ecological preservation which deserves much praise. Up to April 2017, 34.9 percent of black and odorous water bodies in urban areas have been cleaned up. The number of smog monitoring sites across China has been increased from 126 in 60 cities to 150 in 74 cities. The automobile sector is being transformed into the world's largest electric vehicle industry. In January this year, China instituted the environmental protection tax and imposed fees on polluting companies. In addition, the new Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which is responsible for monitoring the nation's environment, was also set up.
As ecology and environment are closely connected with people's well-being, so President Xi urged that China still has a number of environmental challenges that need to be resolved. As part of China's ecological and environmental protection, the country's total energy consumption will be capped at 5 billion tonnes of coal equivalent by 2020, which will translate into a 15-percent reduction of energy use per unit of GDP. It has also piloted 10 national parks across the country to protect the natural environment and endangered species.
Although multiple measures have been taken toward eliminating diverse contamination issues, the progress was not made in a firm manner. Li Ganjie, Minister of Ecology and the Environment, informed on April 25 that in 2017, there were 99 cities failing to meet the air quality standard among 338 cities at or above prefectural level. The surface water in 73 Chinese cities failed to reach the official national standard. Shen Yiyang, a senior energy consultant at the Asian Development Bank, told CGTN that water, air and soil pollution has long been a struggle of the Chinese government and winning the anti-pollution war will take more time.
As "Beautiful China Initiative" is part of a global mission of building a beautiful earth, during the two-day meeting, President Xi showcased the leadership's determination with clear goals saying that the "ecological environment is a crucial political and social issue that relates to the mission of the Communist Party of China and people's livelihoods." However, it needs to be pointed out that although China is on the road of building an ecological civilization with green development concepts, it has a bigger role to promote and guide the establishment of a fair and reasonable global climate governance system that promotes win-win cooperation and "building a human community with shared destiny."
(Rabi Sankar Bosu,Secretary, New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, based in West Bengal, India)