What China's 13th Five-Year Plan means for the environment

By Niranjan Sahoo
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 29, 2016
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Green development [By Gu Peili / China.org.cn]

The much talked about 13th Five-Year Plan has generated unprecedented global attention for the many goals it has set for the country's leadership in the next five years. While a lot of ink has been spilled on projected growth numbers and the lofty vision of building a "moderately prosperous society by 2020," equally critical milestones regarding the environment have not received the kind of critical attention they deserve. The new plan's comprehensive roadmap to address key environmental challenges and meet global commitments on climate change is no less important than the roadmap for economic growth and prosperity. In fact, a closer look at the plan reveals the presence of sound environmental principles.

For the right reasons, issues related to the environment continue to draw outsized attention in China's civic spheres. A day doesn't go by in China without some headline grabbing news on purple haze, school closures, and citizens wearing face masks. According to the latest Greenpeace East Asia Report, an alarming 80 percent of China's 367 cities don't meet national small-particle pollution standards. Similarly, in a large metropolis such as Beijing, hazardous particles are forty times higher than the WHO safe limit.

Also worrisome is the large scale pollution of water sources threatening the country's water supplies. According to Choke Point, an environmental NGO, an alarming 660 Chinese cities may face water shortages in the future. Furthermore, environmental degradation is having a cumulatively negative effect on the health of Chinese economy. It is estimated that environmental degradation impacts a mammoth 3.5 percent of country's GDP.

The 13th Five-Year Plan was expected to provide a comprehensive roadmap and strategic direction to undo environmental damage. Of course, even before the Plan was cleared, the Chinese leadership had taken a lead by pledging an astonishing 60-65 percent cut in carbon output by 2030. More importantly, the country has pledged to increase its non-fossil fuel energy share by 20 percent by 2030. The 13th Five-Year Plan has provided a clear roadmap to meet the country's INDC targets and environmental goals.

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