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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The new plan's key message is the need to pursue a growth path that is resource-efficient and environmentally friendly, which requires a new direction for the economy, with emphasis on transitioning from low-end (polluting) manufacturing to medium and high-end industries. Such a change in direction will be furthered by enhancing energy efficiency. The new plan's focus on expanding the scale of high-speed rail transport, earmarking a massive $800 billion for the next five years, is going to add an extra edge to carbon reduction. Urban mass transportation systems, which received major support in the new plan, would also go a long way in cutting emissions. In addition, the new plan's big push for having millions of electric cars by 2020 is a bold measure for a green future.

The 13th Plan is on target as far as urgent issues like air and water pollution are concerned. To enable air quality restoration, the new plan makes it clear that two key air pollutants - nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide - must be reduced by 15 percent by 2020. Furthermore, the new plan expects cities to meet "good" and "excellent" standards at least 80 percent of time.

The new plan's most noteworthy aspect is its reliance on implementation. This was best illustrated in the tone of Premier Li's address to the National People's Congress when he said, "We must ensure that the newly revised Environmental Protection Law is strictly enforced…those who emit pollutants beyond the limit allowed by their permit, or without a permit, are to be severely punished and those who knowingly allow such violations are to be held accountable." Accordingly, the Ministry of Environmental Pollution (MEP) has been empowered to adopt new regulations that would enable its agencies to impose administrative penalties for pollution, establish compulsory measures, and grant investigating powers to authorized agencies.

The best thing about the 13th Five-Year Plan is that it recognizes the role of citizens, NGOs, and civil society at large in reaching key environmental goals. It has brought people to the center of the environmental battle.

Niranjan Sahoo is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


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