Promote Ecological Progress and Reform Environmental Management

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China II Updated: 2021-12-27

Promote Ecological Progress and Reform Environmental Management*


October 26, 2015


"Dual control" of energy, water resources and construction land. We must take effective measures to promote ecological progress and address growing resource constraints, serious environmental pollution, and ecological degradation, and be pragmatic and solid in our work so as to achieve results. Dual control is an effective measure. It means putting a ceiling on both the total amount and the intensity of energy use, water consumption, and construction land utilization per unit of GDP. If we can ensure the success of the ceiling, we will save energy and water and land resources, reduce pollutant emissions at source, force the transformation of the growth model, and raise the level of the green economy.

The intensity of energy consumption per unit of GDP was taken as a binding indicator for the first time in the 11th Five-year Plan (2006-2010); the 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015) decided to rationally control total energy consumption. As it stands now, these decisions have proved to be both necessary and effective. Considering the grim situation in terms of our resources and environment, we should continue to apply dual control over energy consumption, expand it to water resources and construction land, treat it as a binding indicator, establish a target responsibility system, and clarify and assign responsibilities in a rational way.

We should also explore the establishment of a market-based dual control mechanism, a budget management system and a system of compensated use and trading, and strive to exercise dual control with more use of the market.

The pilot project of crop rotation and fallow land system. After long-term development, the exploitation of arable land in China is too intense. In some places, a serious decline in land fertility, water and soil erosion, over-exploitation of groundwater, soil degradation, and non-point source pollution have become prominent problems that constrain the sustainable development of their agriculture. Domestic grain stocks are currently high, which has led to heavy warehousing subsidies. In addition, the international market has seen falling grain prices, which have dropped below the production cost in domestic market. The crop rotation and fallow land system should be adopted in some places when grain supply is abundant both at home and abroad. This will be beneficial to land restoration, sustainable agricultural development, balancing grain supply and demand, stabilizing rural income, and reducing financial pressure.

In implementing the crop rotation and fallow land system, we can focus on pilot projects in groundwater funnel areas and areas of heavy metal pollution and serious ecological degradation in accordance with the financial resources available and food supply and demand, arrange for certain areas of arable land to lie fallow, and give the required food or cash subsidies to the farmers concerned. In carrying out this pilot program we should make sure that national food security and the incomes of farmers are not affected. This program should not reduce the arable land area, divert it to non-agricultural purposes, or weaken China's overall agricultural production capacity, but rather it should ensure that there will be adequate output and supply in time of need. At the same time we must ensure that agriculture goes global more quickly, and domestic farm produce must increase. Since the crop rotation and fallow land system is complicated, we must first carry out pilot programs.

The system that places the monitoring, supervision, and law enforcement activities of environmental protection bodies below the provincial level under the leadership of environmental bodies at the next level up. Serious pollution to the environment, especially to the atmosphere, water and soil, has become an apparent threat to the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. It is people's earnest wish to stop environmental deterioration and improve the quality of the environment; it is also an important goal of the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-2020) to which we must attach great importance, and which we must effectively promote. The existing block-based local environmental management system has led to the following consequences: Some places value development far above environmental protection and intervene in the monitoring and supervision over law enforcement by environmental protection agencies. As a result, it is difficult to implement the environmental protection responsibility system, or laws are not properly observed or strictly enforced, or lawbreakers are not prosecuted by some local regions and government agencies.

To sum up, the existing environmental protection system has failed to address the following four difficulties:
– the difficulty in implementing its supervisory responsibility over local governments and the relevant departments;
– the difficulty in preventing the interference of local protectionism in the monitoring and scrutiny of law enforcement;
– the difficulty in adapting to the new requirement of coordinating and addressing cross-region and cross-basin environmental issues; and
– the difficulty in regulating and strengthening local environmental protection bodies.

The system that places the monitoring, supervision, and law enforcement activities of environmental bodies below the provincial level under the leadership of environmental bodies at the next level up is mentioned in the Recommendations. It includes the following key provisions:
– provincial environmental protection agencies directly manage the monitoring and scrutiny agencies at city (prefectural) and county level, and bear their personnel and work expenses;
– city (prefectural) level environmental protection bureaus follow a dual management system with provincial-level environmental protection departments (bureaus) taking the lead; and
– county-level environmental protection bureaus are no longer independent but are detached offices of environmental protection bureaus at the city (prefectural) level.

All this is a major reform of China's environmental management system, which is conducive to enhancing the unity, authority, and effectiveness of environmental law enforcement. We will promote this reform nationwide on the basis of pilot programs and endeavor to complete the task before the end of the 13th Five-year Plan period.


* Part of the speech "Explanation of the 'Recommendations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China for the 13th Five-year Plan for Economic and Social Development'" at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

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