The central government is setting up an accountability system under which officials' career paths will be tied to their performance in environment protection and energy efficiency.
The move aims to steer the country toward a more environment-friendly road to economic growth.
The State Council, China's cabinet, is working on the "environmental veto system", under which green efforts will be a decisive factor in determining the future of government and Party officials, a senior policymaker told China Daily.
Previously, the assessment of officials focused on their performance in areas such as economic growth, family planning and workplace safety.
The central government will demand full compliance with the accountability system from heads of local governments and Party committees as well as their deputies charged with energy conservation and environmental protection, said He Bingguang, deputy director of the resource utilization and environmental protection department of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
The system will help keep local governments in step with the central government, which is "resolutely committed" to energy conservation and emission control. China's goal is to cut its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent and pollutant discharge by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010.
The NDRC official declined to set a timetable for implementation of the new official assessment system.
In early July, the official revealed, inspection teams from the central government discovered that some local governments had kept investing heavily in resource-intensive industries, ignoring Beijing's call for the reduction of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, the official said, the central government started to set targets for officials in 2006 - of lowering energy consumption per unit of GDP by 4 percent annually till 2010.
However, a recent survey shows, except for Beijing, no provincial government succeeded in delivering on the targets.
Taking that into consideration, NDRC has decided that officials should be assessed on a five-year performance rather than in a single year.
Environmental experts applauded the proposed "veto system" but also warned that it might be hard to put into practice. "Local governments face huge difficulties in saving energy," said Huang Shengchu, head of the China Coal Information Institute (CCII), affiliated to the State Administration of Work Safety. "The new system will affect many officials if you are to measure their performance by environmental targets. And there is a likelihood that many of them would fail."
Huang, a senior researcher in work safety and coalmine gas management, said the new system will demonstrate the will of the central government but in practice, it may meet resistance.
Even though officials are asked to make a pledge on workplace safety, major mining accidents have not been stopped, he said.
(China Daily July 31, 2007)