Press conference: Pursuing green development

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Li Ganjie, secretary of the Leading Party Members Group and minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection
Yang Weimin, deputy director of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economic Affairs

Guo Weimin, spokesperson for the 19th National Congress of the CPC and deputy director of the State Council Information Office

Oct. 23, 2017

Guo Weimin:

Ladies, gentlemen, friends from the media. Good afternoon. Welcome to the sixth in the series of press conferences held at the Press Center of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Present here are Mr. Li Ganjie, secretary of the Leading Party Members Group and the minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Mr. Yang Weimin, deputy director of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economic Affairs. They will introduce the work being undertaken on green development and in building a beautiful China.

Li Ganjie:

It's a great honor for me to be a delegate to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which gave me the chance to listen to General Secretary Xi Jinping's report. The report thoroughly presented an overall plan for work on ecological civilization and ecological and environmental protection. It is very encouraging. Taking this opportunity, I'd like to provide a brief introduction with our work in this regard.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has taken a series of fundamental, insightful and innovative measures to promote historic, fundamental and overall shifts in the understanding and practice of ecological and environmental protection. Much headway has been made with the best development of ecological civilization as deeper understanding has been achieved of the issue. The efforts that have been made in this field are greater than ever, the measures taken are more solid than ever, and the advancement of various programs is faster than ever.

Generally, we have made unparalleled achievements in five aspects.

First, there is deeper understanding of the requirements of ecological civilization. All Party members and all Chinese people have become more willing to, and more active in carrying out the philosophy of green development. The previous indifferent attitude has changed notably.

Second, the efforts made in pollution treatment have been greater than ever. We have started the fight against pollution by launching three special action plans, each containing 10 articles, to prevent and control airborne, water and soil pollution. Infrastructure construction for sewage and waste treatment and for other environmental purposes has gathered pace. Coal-fired power generators with a total capacity of 570 million kw have been upgraded to achieve ultra-low emissions. Approximately 18 million old or high-emission vehicles have been taken off the roads. The rural environment has been improved comprehensively. More than 110,000 villages underwent pollution treatment, benefiting nearly 200 million rural residents. Smooth progress has also been made in the implementation of major ecological conservation and restoration projects.

Third, regulations have been enacted more frequently than before. The Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform has approved more than 40 special reform plans on ecological civilization and ecological and environmental protection. Combined, they play a significant role in promoting green development and improving the environment.

Fourth, supervision and law enforcement have become stricter than ever before. Several laws have been formulated or revised. They include the Environmental Protection Law, the Law on Atmospheric Pollution Prevention and Control, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, the Environmental Protection Tax Law and the Nuclear Safety Law. The draft Law on the Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution is now under examination by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The new Environmental Protection Law, which was approved in 2014 and enacted in 2015, together with new rules and regulations, are playing a positive role in ensuring enterprises closely observe the law.

Fifth, our environment has improved faster than ever. In the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta region and Pearl River Delta region, the concentration of PM2.5, or hazardous fine particle matter, dropped more than 30 percent in 2016, as compared to the level in 2013, the year when the Action Plan on Air Pollution Prevention and Control was launched. The proportion of areas affected by acid rain nationally dropped to 7.2 percent from the historical high of over 30 percent in the 1990s. And the drop was not only seen in terms of area, but also in intensity. In regard to water quality, 67.8 percent of surface water of sections under national monitoring reached the level of grade I to III. The coverage rate of forest also increased to 22 percent from 16.6 percent at the beginning of this century.

Besides tackling domestic problems, we have also played an active role in global environment governance. So far, we have approved participation in more than 30 multilateral conventions and protocols concerning ecological and environmental protection. In terms of international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization.

In the next stage, we will fully carry out the guiding principles of the 19th CPC National Congress, especially the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. We will continue to adhere to the people-oriented development philosophy, and maintain a strong commitment to socialist ecological civilization. We will vigorously promote the progress of ecological civilization and ecological and environmental protection, and meet people's growing demand for a beautiful environment.

First, we will be dedicated to maintaining political integrity, thinking in terms of the big picture, following the leadership core, and staying aligned with the central Party leadership, thus assuming our political responsibility in the development of ecological civilization. Second, we will seek to develop eco-friendly growth models and ways of life, and restore the serenity, harmony and beauty of nature. Third, we will focus on prominent environment problems, such as air, water and soil pollution, and promote continuous improvement of the environment. Fourth, we will work to protect and restore the ecological system, and increase the supply of high-quality ecological goods. Fifth, we will attach great importance to the reform of the system for developing an ecological civilization, and optimize the environmental administration. Thank you.


Guo Weimin:

Now, let's welcome Mr. Yang Weimin to give a briefing.

Yang Weimin:

Good afternoon. I'd like to give an introduction to the institutional reform for ecological civilization and our achievements over the past five years.

China has achieved fast economic growth through reform and opening up, but the ecological environment had become a weak point impeding national development and public wellbeing. Ecological environment improvement calls not only for more efforts, but, even more importantly, a reform of the system. Thus, this reform has been given top priority by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core since the 18th CPC National Congress, as a comprehensive reform process has developed. Of the 38 meetings convened by the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, 20 discussed such reforms, and created 48 specific measures. The third, fourth and fifth plenary sessions of the 18th CPC Central Committee set 37 tasks for reform, among which 24 have been completed, nine are partly finished, and four are now underway. These sessions issued 84 important documents on deepening the overall reform process.

In consideration of the lack of top-level planning for ecological civilization institutions, and progress in this regard lagging behind economic structural reform, in 2015, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council formulated the Integrated Reform Plan for Promoting Ecological Progress. The Plan establishes the framework of ecological civilization with "multiple pillars" and outlines eight systems that need to be established or improved. The Plan has been implemented smoothly so far. Among the 79 reform tasks that were targeted for completion between 2015 and 2017, 73 have been finished and the remaining six basically finished.

Presently, work to create the institutions and systems related to ecological civilization is being accelerated in following aspects. We have advanced reform of the property rights for natural resource assets, improved the system for the development and protection of territorial space, launched trial reforms of the spatial planning system, improved the system for total consumption regulation and comprehensive conservation of resources, promoted the system for payment-based resource use and compensatory conservation and protection efforts, strengthened the environmental governance system, speeded up the establishment of a market system for environmental governance and ecological conservation and developed a comprehensive evaluation and accountability system.

Building ecological civilization represents a profound shift in China's development. Over the past five years since the 18th CPC National Congress, we have launched more reforms, advanced more rapidly, exerted more efforts and accomplished more in this regard than at any time in our history. This indicates that the cause of the Party and the country, as well as the institutions on ecological civilization, are undergoing an historic shift.

The following are some examples showcasing these historic changes.

In the past, there was an undefined ownership of natural resources by the whole people, except for mineral resources. The problem had existed since the founding of the People's Republic of China. The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core launched reforms on this issue, with the aim of determining rights and establishing a proper governance mechanism. Although it takes a long time to establish a comprehensive natural resource property rights system, we made a good start.

In the past, nearly all places strived for large-scale exploitation and development, aiming to achieve industrialization and urbanization. Actually, that was not in line with natural laws and economic principles. Therefore, we promoted building a functional zoning system, encouraging developments in accordance with the requirements of optimized development, focused development, restricted development and forbidden development. For example, Beijing falls in the category of optimized development. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that Beijing should be relieved of functions not essential to its role as the national capital, embark on an intensive development path and explore an optimized mode for development in populous and economically advanced areas. This is actually a restructuring of the city of Beijing and surely a project of historic importance.

In the past, departments in charge of natural resource management all set up their own protection zones. Large in number and in area size, such protection zones lacked oversight. General Secretary Xi presided over the review and approval of the plan on piloting a national park system, including the Sanjiangyuan National Park (123,100 square kilometers), Siberian tiger and Amur leopard habitats (14,600 square kilometers), giant panda habitats (27,100 square kilometers) and Qilian Mountain (50,200 square kilometers). The plan calls for maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the ecological system within these protection zones, with the goals of returning an area of 215,000 square kilometers, or two percent of the country's land area, to nature and its wildlife such as giant pandas, Siberian tigers and Tibetan antelopes, and preserving more green space for future generations to enjoy. This move is unprecedented in China's history.

There was also a long-existing problem of overlapping spatial planning. An area of land might have been planned for different utilities by different departments. Effective land use requires unified and complete spatial planning. General Secretary Xi required combining different types of plans into a single spatial entity, with one plan and one blueprint for any city or county. He presided over the review and approval of plans on provincial-level pilot programs in Hainan and Ningxia. The trial programs showed such practice was totally feasible.

We are committed to the strictest farmland protection system, ensuring that China's farmland remains at or above the red line of 120 million hectares. However, this has resulted in weaker protection on other ecological spaces, as forests, wetlands, grasslands and even oceans were sometimes used for construction. General Secretary Xi said that our mountains, waters, forests, farmlands and lakes form a community of life, which means that if we want to protect the farmland, we must also protect other ecological spaces. Therefore, we have established the system for total consumption regulation covering land, water, energy, natural forests, grasslands, wetlands, deserts, oceans and mineral resources.

In the past, some places pursued development at the cost of the environment and ecological system. General Secretary Xi said that GDP could not be the only criteria for assessment and we must establish a lifelong accountability system for ecological and environmental damage. With the issuance of a series of institutions, all regions and all government departments have raised their consciousness and initiative to protect ecological environment. This is also a fundamental shift.

There are also many historic changes in environmental governance, which Mr. Li has introduced.

On the basis of the achievements attained since the 18th CPC National Congress, the report to the 19th CPC National Congress called for speeding up reform of the system for developing an ecological civilization and building a beautiful China. The commitment revealed the will and determination of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core to strengthen ecological conservation. During the process of securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and embarking on a journey to fully build a modern socialist China, we must take tough steps to prevent and control pollution, shore up weak points in the ecological environment and provide more quality ecological goods to satisfy the people's ever-growing needs for a beautiful China. In this way, we will make China a country with more blue skies, clearer water and greener hills, and realize harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

Let's move on to the Q&A session.

China Central Television (CCTV):

My question is for Mr. Li and Mr. Yang, and it concerns reforming the system for developing an ecological civilization. As the fourth group of central inspectors completed their environmental inspection, the campaign has left its footprints all over China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Over 10,000 people were held accountable for inadequate environmental protection. How do you see the result of this inspection campaign? During the process, some people were concerned that pollution might be able to creep back in, and some polluting companies might resume operations after the inspection team leaves. How to avoid this situation? What specific arrangement will you make to ensure that the inspection system will have long-lasting and effective deterrence of wrongdoing? Thank you.

Li Ganjie:

The Central Environmental Inspection is a major reform campaign initiated by General Secretary Xi Jinping after the 18th CPC National Congress to promote ecological civilization. The inspection, beginning in Hebei Province in late 2015, has now covered 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and was completed before the 19th CPC National Congress opened. The two-year campaign proved quite effective and has been widely recognized. Someone compiled a summary of the efforts and results of the inspection: it is favored by the general public, recognized by the central government, supported by the localities and has indeed solved many problems. I think that's an appropriate review. The marked results can be seen in the following aspects.

First, we have greatly improved social awareness of ecological and environmental protection as well as green development.

Second, we have truly solved major environmental problems of concern to a large group of people. In the four rounds of inspection, we received 135,000 public complaints. After weeding out repeated items, we have handed over 104,000 cases for full examination, among which 102,000 have so far been handled. After careful examination, we found that around 80,000 cases were related to garbage disposal, oil fumes, obnoxious smells, excessive noise and the polluting activities of various companies; in addition, there were black and odorous bodies of water needing treatment. Those problems were properly handled and the inspection campaign was thus warmly welcomed by the general public.

Third, the Central Environmental Inspection promoted industrial restructuring and transformation in various localities. Many local areas, which regarded the inspection as an opportunity to promote green development and supply-side reform, have strengthened pollution control, internalized environmental costs and provided a more level-playing field for law-abiding companies. They have taken action against heavy polluters, tackled the problem of "bad money driving out the good" and greatly improved the scale and performance of industrial development.

Fourth, we have effectively facilitated local environmental protection and improved the system for ecological civilization. Many local governments, taking the inspection campaign as a good opportunity, have conscientiously studied and analyzed the problems exposed, and have accelerated their establishment of related rules and regulations, which, according to our rough statistics, number between 300 and 400 items. The establishment and improvement of those rules and regulations has played a major role in promoting ecological civilization and green development.

We also summarized the following six features of the Central Environmental Inspection and its achievements.

First, we have been upholding the principle of "putting people first" and conscientiously studying and tackling the problems of social concern.

Second, we have strengthened overall consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in terms of the big picture, follow the guidance of the leadership core, and keep in alignment, while also taking a clear stand in emphasizing politics.

Third, we have been keeping a close eye on both CPC committees as well as government of various levels, to ensure that all are held accountable and that officials take responsibility for environmental protection in performing their duties.

Fourth, we have been taking a problem-oriented approach to solve all issues.

Fifth, we have dedicated ourselves to information sharing and bringing the role of social supervision into full play. Almost all the problems and the complaints we have received have been made public.

Sixth, we have undertaken strict measures to hold violators accountable.

The six clear features, which involve the successful practice of the Central Environmental Inspection, are suitable for national conditions and our national system. We will continue the practices in our follow-up work in both the Central Environmental Inspection and other undertakings for environmental protection.

You just mentioned that some people are concerned whether the Central Environmental Inspection could be sustained and whether polluting companies could possibly resume their former behavior. Thanks to the widely-recognized and highly effective measures we have taken in the past two years, as well as the valuable practices and experience accumulated, I think we will undoubtedly carry on the campaign. In fact, after this round of campaign, the Ministry of Environmental Protection is speeding up the following efforts.

First, we are making a full review of the four inspection exercises and will continue to improve the related mechanisms and supporting measures to prepare for the second round of the campaign.

Second, we will promote the work of drafting rules and regulations related to the Central Environmental Inspection, so as to ensure it has a law-based, standardized and long-term basis.

Third, we will make specific inspections targeting key regions, key industries and key problems. This is still in the pipeline and is expected to introduce related measures and take specific courses of action late this year or early next year.

Fourth, we will continue to actively guide and promote the establishment of a provincial-level environmental inspection system. The central government needs to push the efforts being undertaken by provincial-level governments, and, in turn, ensuring that they will push prefecture and county-level governments. The former mechanism has almost been established, while the latter is being speeded up through reforms in order to "conduct direct oversight by provincial-level environmental protection agencies over those at a lower level." We are now pushing for the full establishment of the system with synergized efforts of both central and provincial level government so that it will play a bigger role in the future. Thank you.

Yang Weimin:

Mr. Li has provided a very good statement. In the report to the 19th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi said that, "we will take tough steps to stop and punish all activities that damage the environment." This has demonstrated the stance, attitude and determination of the CPC, which is to "take tough steps to stop and punish all activities that damage the environment" and, as was said earlier, "impose severe punishment for environmental violations". I believe that, through this kind of institutional arrangement, we will definitely establish a long-term mechanism, and form a social environment that deters and stops people from damaging the ecological environment. Thank you.

The Wall Street Journal:

My question is about the aims of improving the ecological environment while maintaining steady economic growth. Are there any contradictions between the two? How will the government manage to handle them? We have noticed that, under environmental protection requirements, some factories have suspended production, so will the suspension lead to an increase in the unemployment rate?

Li Ganjie:

Let me answer this question first. At the press conference the day before yesterday, I noticed a reporter raised a similar question with Zhang Yong, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)–namely, will environmental protection efforts affect the GDP as well as development? I think he gave a very good answer. It is impossible for enterprises not to be affected; however, the impact is partial and at a micro level. In the long run, there will be no impact from a macro and overall viewpoint. Enhancing environmental protection and promoting green development to strengthen ecological civilization construction are positively correlated with economic development.

General Secretary Xi Jinping has often said we must affirm the concept of viewing "lush mountains and lucid waters as valuable as gold and silver," and this was reiterated and re-emphasized in his report to the 19th CPC National Congress. He also stressed that protecting the ecological environment means to protect productivity, and improvingthe ecological environment is to develop productivity. This is a scientific judgment based on profound rational analysis as well as sufficient and countless successful evidence-based practices. There are many successful cases abroad, and we also have similar practices at home. As time is limited, I won't enumerate them here.

As for the issue of employment, you may know that the surveyed unemployment rate in major cities has dropped to its lowest level in recent years. I don't think we could have made such progress if our efforts on environmental protection had affected employment.

I would like to say that, in the process of enhancing environmental protection, we have stressed it is going to be a tough and prolonged battle. A problem does not emerge in just a few days, and it's impossible to solve it overnight. Therefore, in the specific implementation process, we have paid close attention to the strategy and methods. On the one hand, we pursue zero tolerance against enterprises violating laws and rules that lead to environmental pollution; on the other hand, we deal with problems on a case-by-case basis according to the principle of classified guidance.

Some media have reported that we took the way of "one-size-fits-all;" however, I want to clarify that we firmly oppose such an indiscriminate way, regardless of whether a thing is good or bad. Those enterprises violating laws and rules have been given time to rectify their problems, depending on their circumstances. Only those without any obvious existence value, which bring heavy pollution to the environment and do not function well even with rectification, will finally be shut down.

It is because of such a strategy and method that our overall work has been supported by all, including enterprises and local governments. Therefore, I think environmental protection and economic growth have complemented each other in the recent past. Environmental protection has been strengthened and environmental quality has been improved, and at the same time, economic growth has not been affected. Thank you.

China Youth Daily:

As Mr. Yang mentioned just now, the reform of the system for developing an ecological civilization has been underlined at 20 out of 38 meetings of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms in the past five years. Widely-acknowledged achievements have been made in the reform. I would like to know: what difficulties and problems have been met in advancing the reform? What will be the focus of the reform in the future? Thank you.

Yang Weimin:

China's reform of the system for developing an ecological civilization is exploratory, as it is lagging behind our economic reforms and little experience can be drawn from other countries. There are indeed some difficulties and problems in the reform. For example, the reform of the property rights system for natural resources is still on trial. It is difficult to determine natural resource rights, as rivers, for example, belong to the whole people, and it is hard to identify their ownership.

In addition, we have difficulty integrating relevant systems and institutions. The problem of overlapping responsibility or shared management between departments related to ecological conservation and environmental protection has not been solved root and branch, and more measures need to be introduced based on the plans made at 19th CPC National Congress. What's more, some reforms have been slowed down by the amendment of laws and regulations on management codes and rules, which is a complicated process.

The biggest problem, I think, is that the market has not played its role thoroughly and the incentive mechanism is not full-fledged yet, although government supervision has been strengthened comprehensively. For example, more efforts should be made to establish a mechanism for maximizing the benefits of pollution reduction, which will be the focus of the reform.

In a word, we will speed up the reform of the system for developing an ecological civilization according to the plans made at the 19th CPC National Congress by taking a problem-oriented approach and strengthening institutional weakness. Thank you.

China Meteorological News:

At the beginning of this year, China's meteorological and environmental authorities said they were working on a joint forecast and warning mechanism for fog and haze weather. How far has the work progressed? Besides that, in his report to the 19th CPC National Congress, President  Xi emphasized that we will continue our campaign to prevent and control air pollution in order to make our skies blue again. What is the biggest challenge? Thank you.

Li Ganjie:

Forecasting and early warning play very important roles in combating air pollution. The situation regarding pollutant discharges along with meteorological conditions should be figured out beforehand. Thus, forecasts and warnings depend on close cooperation between our meteorological and environmental authorities.

Over the past year or so, we have done a better job in forecasts and early warnings. I think the most important reason for that is the close and effective cooperation between our environmental and meteorological authorities. In fact, experts from [both sides] take part in consultations and bring their specialties into full play, especially in autumn and winter. As China's environment minister, I pay close attention to these consultations and have found that their forecasts are very consistent with the actual situation. This shows our cooperation has achieved remarkable success. Admittedly, we still need to further strengthen our cooperation in other fields, as a matter of fact, we are now discussing and working on this. I believewe will do a better job in related areas through joint efforts.

You just mentioned that General Secretary Xi had called for continued efforts to prevent and control air pollution to make our skies blue again, which means higher requirements for combating pollution. We have been closely studying to understand the main ideas of his report, and are also undertaking a series of measures to strengthen our efforts in addressing pollution. The aim is to achieve remarkable success in pollution control, especially air pollution prevention, by 2020. Targets set out in the national plan on environmental improvements for the 13th Five-Year Plan period [2016-2020] must be achieved. A total of 338 cities at the prefectural level must achieve good air quality on more than 80 percent of the days in a year, while the density of PM2.5 in those cities not meeting the standard must achieve a fall of 18 percent on average, compared with the level in 2015. Meanwhile, we should also make plans and lay a solid foundation for the target of fundamental improvementsin the environment by the end of the next stage from 2020 to 2035.

We are conducting studies to clarify the targets for fundamental environmental improvements. However, I think that, in regard to air quality, it means the national average of PM2.5 concentration will not exceed 35 micrograms per cubic meter, even in some major regions, the average PM2.5 density should also be decreased to meet that target. It is not easy to achieve these and they will need our great effort. We will strive to do our job better to improve the environment and meet people's requirements for a beautiful ecological environment. Thank you.

Phoenix Satellite Television:

I have a question for Mr. Li. We have noticed that this is the final year to implement the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, but we can also see that there is still some shortfall in some places including major cities such as Beijing. Would you please introduce the follow-up measures of the Ministry of Environmental Protection? We have also noted that the smog since autumn has not been reduced this year. Does it indicate that not enough factories have been shut down? Are there other measures which can prove more powerful later on? Thank you.

Li Ganjie:

I have introduced some aspects of the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan when I answered questions just now; now, I will elaborate since you have raised the question. The Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan made and released in September 2013 has yielded quite obvious effects in the past four years, which show that the thoughts, directions, paths and measures specified in the Plan are appropriate and well-implemented.

Here are three sets of data. First, the Plan specified monitoring PM10 in 338 prefecture-level cities, and, by 2016, PM10 had decreased by 15.5 percent. Second, the average PM2.5 concentrations of the three main regions, in 2016, fell by 33 percent in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, 31.3 percent in the Yangtze River Delta and 31.9 percent in the Pearl River Delta respectively. Third, the proportion of days with high and medium-high air quality increased from 60.5 percent to 74.2 percent through four years of concentrated efforts, representing a gain of 13.7 percentage points; the proportion of days with heavy pollution decreased from 8.6 percent to 3 percent, down 5.6 percentage points. This data shows the significant progress made under the Plan during these four years.

Meanwhile, there are, indeed, still many problems in preventing and controlling air pollution. First, the pollution is still quite heavy overall, and air quality is unsatisfactory with a quite large gap with public expectations and requirements. Only 84 out of the 338 cities, 24.8 percent of the total, have met the standard. The average PM10 concentration nationwide is 82 micrograms per cubic meter, 17.1 percent higher than the standard of 70 micrograms per cubic meter. The average PM2.5 concentration was 47 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016, 34.3 percent higher than the standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. So, pollution is still quite heavy overall.

Second, the pollution in key regions and during key periods is more serious, for example severe pollution frequently appears in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and the surrounding areas in North China during autumn and winter; especially last winter, severe pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region aroused a heated public response.

Third, improvements and progress in the structures of industry, energy and transportation, despite some gains, are not satisfactory and obvious enough. The heavy and chemical industries, coal and highway transportation still account for far too high a percentage.

Fourth, many problems are still to be solved in regulating the law-abiding discharge of companies. Some companies, lacking legal consciousness, are still violating the laws and regulations to discharge beyond the limits.

Fifth, the supervisory pressure is not being effectively conveyed to the implementers. Especially in some places, we can see anxious supervisors, but relaxed implementers, and some of our policies and measures are obviously not being fully implemented.

These problems do exist and are prominent in some places, and this naturally makes you concerned about whether we can accomplish the objectives in the Plan this year or not, what our follow-up measures will be, and whether we will keep it up or not. To be honest, we are fully aware of these problems, and we will fulfill our tasks this year in accordance with the requirements of the CPC Central Committee.

Actually we carried out in-depth research a few months ago concerning the existing problems, and launched related work accordingly, especially in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and the surrounding areas receiving wide attention. Certainly, other parts of the country have been covered as well. Here, I am just taking the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and the surrounding areas as a typical example.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection, together with 10 other government departments and all six provinces and municipalities of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and the surrounding areas - Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Henan and Shanxi - worked out a 2017-2018 Action Plan for the Comprehensive Control of Air Pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and the Surrounding Areas during Autumn and Winter and six specialized schemes to effectively prevent and control air pollution this autumn and winter. The action plan has been published, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection has held a press conference specially to popularize it.

We are vigorously promoting this "1+6" document system and have achieved a satisfactory outcome. The documentary system and some specific actions we have taken so far demonstrate the following 10 features.

First, key works highlighted;

Second, systematic and comprehensive measures;

Third, tasks specified;

Fourth, Party committees and governments focused;

Fifth, elites and talents mobilized;

Sixth, technical support strengthened. We have sent a group of experts to each city respectively to guide their pollution prevention and control programs.

Seventh, overall coordination strengthened. We are pushing forward unified planning, standards, licensing, monitoring, law enforcement and emergency addressing to build an air protection agency and carry out its regional pilot.

Eighth, quantitative and rigid accountability. Applied for the first time in environmental protection, we believe it will play its assigned role. Actually, it is already in play.

Ninth, complete openness and transparency. As you may have noted, there has been much information about addressing the air pollution issues of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region and the surrounding areas recently, which is closely related to this feature.

Tenth, publicity and guidance enhanced. Publicity and guidance play a critical role in our endeavors to tackle pollution. These efforts will, on the one hand, lead the public to understand the importance, necessity, urgency and legitimacy of carrying out specialized actions, and, on the other hand, make everyone aware that to bring the PM2.5 level and overall air pollution under control requires tremendous and unremitting efforts. So, we should have both the determination and confidence to make such efforts, and the patience to make unremitting endeavor. Instead of being too anxious for success, we should know that a problem created over a long period can hardly be solved overnight.

We are intensifying our efforts to carry forward the work in accordance with the arrangement, and the endeavor starts from this September and lasts until March next year. However, I would like to emphasize that our endeavors will not stop then. Rather, we will carry it on in the next few years. So, in this sense, these moves are not merely a campaign, and instead, we are exploring and establishing a long-term mechanism that has so far shown to be effective, so we are sure to keep it up. That is all. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

You mentioned experts have been sent to every city of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region just now. Are you referring to the prefecture-level cities?

Li Ganjie:

Yes, every prefecture-level city.

Commercial Radio Hong Kong:

My question is to Mr. Yang Weimin. Currently there are some green financial products in Hong Kong. As the southbound trading of Bond Connect remains unopened, is there any timetable being hopefully fixed for the start of the operation? Moreover, in the following five years, will there be any policies to further promote interconnection between the mainland and Hong Kong, especially, in the sector of green finance? Thank you.

Yang Weimin:

As I mentioned, there remains big potential for green development to be explored in China by the use of the marketing mechanism, and the green finance is among those efforts. The report delivered at the 19th CPC National Congress particularly addressed the development of green finance. Last year, the People's Bank of China and other pertinent authorities jointly issued the Opinions of Building Green Finance System, with obligations assigned to different departments and the measures are now being implemented.

The development of the green finance has achieved notable progress in its nascent stage. For instance, in the first nine months of this year, labeled green bonds issued in our country amounted to 134 billion yuan, accounting for 24 percent of global issuance and taking a leading role in the international market.

By February, the green credit surplus from 21 major financial institutions reached 7.51 trillion yuan, a comparatively small amount, although, comparing it to the colossal credit scale, it is growing fast to reach 8.8 percent of the credit market. Besides, the continuous inception of innovative products, such as the green index products, have helped diversify market options for investors.

Some reforms are still underway. For example, the Ministry of Finance is deliberating on an agenda to establish a State Green Development Fund; some authorities, particularly, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, are mulling ways to better release the environmental information of the listed companies, and the People's Bank of China is expected to launch major measures to build innovative pilot zones for green financial reform and encourage efforts to foster international cooperation, such as financial dialogues with Britain and France, not to mention the ongoing cooperation of green finance.

However, despite such progress, the development, in view of the exponentially huge green market, remains insufficient and requires further exploration.

As Hong Kong is one of the major financial hubs in the world, I believe the mainland will closely connect and cooperate with it to achieve mutual benefits and win-win outcomes, so as to promote the development of green finance and to support the growth of the country's green industries, sectors and programs. Thank you.

Zhong Hua He Zuo Shi Bao:

General Secretary Xi Jinping put forth an encouraging rural vitalization strategy in his report delivered at the 19th CPC National Congress. I have noticed that Jiangsu Province is promoting province-wide unified distribution and delivery of pesticides by supply and marketing cooperatives at bid-winning prices, prices that are lower than normal factory prices; Hebei Province is recycling polluting animal manure and integrating its primary, secondary and tertiary industries. These measures are all closely related to rural development. I wonder whether plans will come out in the near future to implement the strategy. Will the government come up with new measures to prevent and control agricultural pollution from non-point sources in view of the achievements already made in the past five years? Thank you.

Li Ganjie:

Let me give you a briefing first. Improving rural environment is undoubtedly an important part of the rural vitalization strategy. Over the past few years, governments at various levels have attached great importance to environmental improvement in rural areas and we have seen results. For example, just as I mentioned a moment ago, we began, in 2008 as I remember it, a project to improve rural environment comprehensively. So far, the central government alone has spent 37.5 billion yuan (5.6 billion US dollars) on the project, benefiting approximately 200 million rural residents in 110,000 villages.

Many problems that used to directly affect rural residents such as sewage and rubbish have been successfully dealt with. Besides, we use the project as a driver for our overall effort to prevent and treat pollution and protect the environment in rural areas. We will continue the project with a goal, as arranged by relevant government departments, to increase the number of villages involved to 200,000, or one-third of China's administrative villages, by 2020.

Intensifying oversight of rural environmental protection work and prohibiting relocation of causes of pollution in urban areas to rural areas are also our priorities. Meanwhile, relevant departments including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environmental Protection are pressing ahead with the work to prevent and treat pollution from livestock and poultry farming as well as from pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and to comprehensively utilize crop straws.

I'm confident that with these efforts we are able to further improve the rural environment and meet the needs of rural residents for a beautiful environment, just like what we’ve done with the urban environment. I'll stop here.

Yang Weimin:

I'll add something. As a highlight of General Secretary Xi's report, the rural vitalization strategy represents another major strategy of China to address issues relating to agriculture, rural areas, and rural people after the one for building a new socialist countryside. We will definitely formulate corresponding plans to implement the strategy. I believe that the central rural work conference will make such plans.

An important task, or requirement, of the rural vitalization strategy is to build rural areas with pleasant living environments. Admittedly, our past focus was on preventing and treating industrial and urban pollution and in comparison, our manpower and spending for agricultural and rural pollution is inadequate. But such a situation has turned around a lot over the past five years.

For example, at a meeting of the CPC Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs presided over by General Secretary Xi, participants discussed the recycling of waste from livestock and poultry farming. Livestock and poultry farming inevitably creates pollutants, and the pollutants, when discharged into rivers and lakes untreated, are bound to cause serious pollution. This is why relevant departments have designated certain areas, for example water sources, to ban livestock and poultry farming. But we have to eat meat. What shall we do (if a sweeping ban were enforced)?

The answer, therefore, is to turn animal manure into resources, into actually rich resources. Many enterprises chose to use the manure of chickens and pigs to produce methane through fermenting. The methane is then turned into biogas to be used by farmers in their daily life. Biogas produced this way is even used for winter heating by farmers in some places. We can find such use here in Beijing. This is also a potentially huge use for animal manure.

Waste sorting is another issue studied at the same meeting. General Secretary Xi listened to a report by Zhejiang Province on waste sorting in its rural areas. The province promotes the practice of sorting waste into degradable and non-degradable ones by putting two separate bins before each house. This is a practice easy to pick up by common people. The province has done a good job. Sure, the waste can be further sorted, but Zhejiang’s practice has at least put an end to the habit of mixing dry and wet waste. Degradable waste can then be composted into organic fertilizers.

Attaching equal importance to urban and rural pollution is also one of the major principles in China’s integrated reform plan for promoting ecological progress. I’m sure that relevant authorities will continue to follow this principle in their work in accordance with the rural vitalization strategy and work hard to treat rural environmental pollution.

Li Ganjie:

I'll add another point. I totally agree with Mr. Yang's analysis and judgment that compared with urban pollution and industrial pollution, rural pollution didn’t receive due attention from us in the past. Its prevention and control has, in a sense, become an especially weak area in our work to protect the environment and build an ecological civilization. Actually, rural environmental improvement is very important. It addresses not only rural people's needs for a better life and better environment, but also urban people’s needs for a better life because it concerns the safety of grain, vegetables and water everyone consumes. Rural environmental improvement must be put on the agenda.

General Secretary Xi has made it clear in his report that China will intensify the prevention and control of agricultural pollution from non-point sources, and take measures to improve rural living environments. This is like the firing of a starter pistol and the sounding of a bugle for our continued efforts. The Ministry of Environmental Protection will strive together with other relevant departments to do a good job and push environmental protection in rural areas a big step forward, just like what we’ve done with environmental protection in other areas.

Jiefang Daily:

Last January, at the symposium on improving the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, General Secretary Xi Jinping said to restore the ecological environment of the Yangtze River will be an overwhelming task and no large-scale development will be allowed along the river at present and for a rather long period to come. Yet, in recent years, we find reports that it still facing serious environmental pollution problems. My question is for Minister Li. What's the next-step for the ecological environmental protection? And will there be more strict and specific measures taken? How to deal with the interest relations among parties concerned along the river? Thanks.

Li Ganjie:

The CPC Central Committee and State Council have always attached great importance to ecological environmental protection along the Yangtze River. Last January, General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that development along the river must prioritize ecology and "green development" and restoring its ecological environment would be an overwhelming task and no large-scale development would be allowed along the river, which was also particularly pointed out in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress.

After the symposium, local governments took effective measures to tackle the environmental problems and their efforts started to pay off. For example, there has been an improvement in water quality. Compared to last year, the share of water in the Yangtze River recorded with a quality of Grade I, II and III was up to 4.3 percentage points higher from this January to September, which is not easy, since there is no big shift in the climate and hydro-meteorological factor. Meanwhile, the share of water worse than Grade V fell from 4.2 percent to 3.4 percent, down 0.8 percentage points.

However, we still have serious problems to tackle in ecological environmental protection along the Yangtze River Economic Belt. First, lack of infrastructure for environmental protection, such as the urban sewage treatment, let alone sewage treatment in rural areas. Second, concentrated heavy industries along the river pose an environmental risk. Third, agricultural pollution from non-point sources continues. Fourth, in terms of the ecological system, damages and destruction to wetlands has increased in recent years, resulting in a bad influence on maintaining the ecosystem service function.

In recent years, we have taken several measures for environmental protection, putting into practice General Secretary Xi Jinping's requirements. The first thing was to strengthen top-tier design and planning to protect the ecological environment of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. This July, we formulated and promulgated the eco-environmental protection plan covering it.

Compared to previous plans, the plan has its own characteristics. I summarize them from three angles. First, we pay equal attention to water resources, water ecology and water environment [since the first two are closely related to the third]. To improve the water environment, we need to rationally utilize the water resources and effectively restore the water ecology.

Second, we are taking serious actions in four aspects. The plan attached great importance to the coordinated development of upstream and downstream areas; with a particular focus on crucial areas, such as Poyang Lake, Dongting Lake and the Yangtze Estuary. It also focused on major projects of environmental protection and called for mechanism reform and innovation. Reform and innovation on system and mechanism are crucial to address the problems, giving great impetus to promote the environmental protection.

Third, we will build the Yangtze River into a river that is harmonious, clean, healthy, beautiful and safe. By rationally developing and utilizing water resources, we will build a harmonious river. By strengthening environmental protection, we will build a clean river. By restoring and protecting the water ecosystem, we will build a healthy river. By solving the pollution problems along the river, we will build a beautiful river. And a safe river will be built through the effective regulation on environmental risks.

So, from these three angles, I believe top-tier design and planning will play an important role in protecting the ecological environment of the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

The second thing is that we sent environmental inspectors to supervise provinces (regions and municipalities) along the Yangtze River. And during their inspections, acute environmental problems on pollution and protection were addressed.

The third thing is that we acted promptly to draw the ecological "red line" of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. It is expected that the drawing up of the ecological "red line" at provincial level in the 11 related provinces will be finished by the end of this year.

The fourth thing is that we have launched environmental protection work on drinkable water sources in the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Over the next two years, we will support 1,320 water sources above county level along the Yangtze River Economy Belt to carry out comprehensive environmental improvement. The environmental improvement of water sources above prefectural level will be finished by the end of this year, and those above county level will be finished by the end of next year. The action is now being actively promoted, and we are confident of finishing it.

To sum up, the Yangtze River is the mother river of the Chinese nation. We will make sure that restoring the ecological environment will be an overriding task and no large-scale development will be allowed along the river, providing better conditions for the future development of the Chinese nation.

Zhejiang Satellite TV:

It is well known that Zhejiang is where the important theory of "waters and mountains" was first put forward, and for many years Zhejiang has been committed to building itself into a beautiful province. A few days ago, a news report said that all the rivers and lakes in Zhejiang with waters worse than Grade V have been brought under control. My questions here are for the two ministers. How will you evaluate the province's efforts in building an ecological civilization? And what kind of experience can it provide for building a beautiful China? Thank you.

Li Ganjie:

About a month ago, sponsored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the People's Government of Zhejiang Province, a nationwide meeting on promoting the building of an ecological civilization was held in Anji County, Zhejiang Province. It is well known that, during an inspection tour to Anji in 2005, Xi Jinping first put forward the theory of "waters and mountains," that is, lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. We chose Anji as the site for last month's meeting on promoting an ecological civilization with the important purpose of popularizing some of the good practices and good experiences of Zhejiang in promoting green development and building an ecological civilization.

For more than 10 years now, Zhejiang has made tangible progress in promoting green development and building an ecological civilization. While persistently and firmly forging ahead, the province has pioneered and accumulated a great deal of good practices and experiences. Take the topic of water you just mentioned, for example. It should be said that Zhejiang has gone far ahead of a considerable number of provinces and cities in the country now in terms of water pollution prevention and control. It has not only fundamentally brought the waters worse than Grade V under control, but also has found basic solutions to dirty and malodorous water prevention and control in both rural and urban areas. Currently, a large proportion of related facilities have been built and put into operation. The achievements are closely related to the support of central and local governments. While working in Zhejiang, Xi Jinping attached great importance to the province's water pollution prevention and control. Hereafter, all the other provincial governmental leaders also have set great store by this work. They also have adopted a lot of good approaches and never lowered their vigilance at work. Because of the limited time, I will not explain them here in detail. If you have opportunities in the future, you are welcomed to go to Zhejiang and do some interviews. I think it will be helpful for you to learn more about the province.

China News Service:

My question is about soil pollution. We have seen some reports on heavy metal pollution in some cities. Soil quality concerns public food safety. What measures will be taken to treat soil pollution and ensure food safety for the people? Thank you.

Li Ganjie:

The prevention and control of soil pollution is important, as it concerns food and water safety and it's more arduous than that of air and water pollution. Therefore, we must pay particular attention and put more effort into tackling it. The Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution is among the three action plans on pollution issued in the past five years since the 18th CPC National Congress. Although this plan was published last year, some achievements have already been made in its implementation.

To begin with, we have pressed ahead with two fundamental tasks. First, remarkable progress has been achieved in legislation on soil pollution, which had been lagging behind that on air and water pollution. As I mentionedjust now, the Law on Prevention and Control of Soil Pollutionhas been approved upon the first deliberation by the National People's Congress. Related standards and regulations are going to be introduced, and some have been promulgated. For example, we have issued the measures for soil environmental governance on agricultural land andpolluted land plots, and made some progress in a certain sense.

Second, a soil pollution survey has been launched. Grasping soil conditions is the key to preventing and controlling soil pollution. Without a good grasp of soil conditions, our measures would not be sufficiently targeted. In order to achieve a sound understanding, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and other ministries have jointly issued an overall plan for the nationwide soil pollution survey. The survey is being carried out progressively.

What's more, there has been steady progress in the performance of two key tasks. The first is agricultural land classification led by the Ministry of Agriculture. Trials have been launched in Tianjin, Hunan, Hubei, Liaoning, etc. to set up prohibited areas for agricultural products. The ministries of Agriculture, Finance, and Land and Resources, and some other departments, have jointly promulgated a plan to explore trials of crop rotation and fallow land, initiating pilot programsin the Changzhutan (Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan) area in Hunan Province.

The second task is tightening up construction land approvals. Now, some ministries including Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Land and Resources and Environmental Protection can share information through an information system covering polluted land nationwide. Some cities, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing, have published a catalogue of polluted land. Some places have released lists of enterprises that require special supervision in terms of soil pollution, strengthening law enforcement and stringently controlling the launching of new projects with polluting potential.

Another task set by the Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution is to carry outpilot and demonstration programs. Comprehensive trials in six areas and technical experiment in 200 land plots, launched a year ago, have already made steady progress. Looking ahead, we will work together with other departments in intensifying target assessment to secure more progress in the prevention and control of soil pollution as soon as possible. At least, we will try to prevent soil pollution from taking its toll on food and water safety as well as people's health. We will speed up the restoration of polluted land to improve soil quality.

Guo Weimin:

This marks the end of the last in a series of press conferences held by the Press Center of the 19th CPC National Congress. I would like to express my appreciation to all friends from the media for your attention and coverage. Thank you.

By Li Xiaohua, GuoXiaohong, Wang Qian, Chen Xia, Huang Shan, GuoYiming, Zhou Jing, Zhang Liying, Yang Xi, Zhang Jiaqi, Wu Jin, Yuan Fang, Cui Can, Li Jingrong, Wang Wei, Li Huiru, He Shan, Layne Flower, Christopher Georgiou, Geoffrey Murray

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