The nation's top environment watchdog should be upgraded from an agency to a ministry and granted more powers to fight China's worsening pollution, international experts said Thursday.
The present environmental protection system also needs adjusting to allow China to diversify measures to facilitate the implementation of environmental policies, said the first Environmental Performance Review of China conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
"While recognizing the serious engagement of the Chinese government in addressing environmental problems we found that these efforts have not been sufficient to keep pace with the environmental pressures and challenges generated by the very rapid growth of China's economy," Kiyotaka Akasaka, Deputy Secretary-General of OECD, told a press conference yesterday in Beijing. "Overall, environmental efforts have lacked effectiveness and efficiency largely as a result of an implementation gap."
OECD is an international organization which aims to help governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of a global economy. Its environmental performance review of China was made in accordance with an agreement between the State Environment Protection Administration (SEPA) and OECD last October although China is not being a member of the organization.
The recommendation to upgrade SEPA, part of a package of suggestions designed to help China tackle pollution, came together with an evaluation of the nation's environmental performance over the past decade.
SEPA is already a ministry-level administration but still one class lower than other cabinet-ranking ministries like Finance.
Using Japan as an example Akasaka suggested elevating SEPA to ministry status and granting it equal footing with the other ministries to ensure its voice was better heard.
"Environmental protection involves many ministries," he said. "Unless SEPA has an equivalent standing it can't have discussions with the other ministries," he said.
The failure to achieve some of the major environmental objectives of the 10th Five-Year-Plan (2001-05) and the severity of environmental problems in many parts of the country demonstrates the weaknesses of the present system, the report said.
The biggest obstacles to environmental policy implementation are at local level, it added.
In the face of SEPA's lack of strength when enforcing its environmental laws at local level many propose, especially in academic circles, to elevate the administration to ministry level and giving it stronger powers.
Echoing the report, Pan Yue, deputy director of SEPA, said the body needed to strengthen its supervisory capacity over local environment protection offices, monitoring, and its inspection and enforcement capabilities throughout the country.
Extending market mechanisms such as pollution and user charges and emissions trading, is also listed among the 51 recommendations listed in the report.
(China Daily November 10, 2006)