Beijing, 11 March, 2016 – In today’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) press conference, Minister Chen Jining expressed an encouraging outlook and laid out a comprehensive range of targets for the MEP. Greenpeace welcomes this vision, but urges the government to strengthen supervision of policy and to further promote public participation as a key part of China’s efforts to protect the environment.
“Today’s press conference showed again that the MEP is serious about tackling both the pressing pollution problems and also some of the deeper causes of China’s environmental problems. Loopholes and enforcement problems are still rife, however, and Greenpeace urges stronger supervision, greater transparency and an increased role for the public in order to strengthen China’s efforts to protect the environment,” said Greenpeace East Asia’s deputy program director, Li Yan.
The government’s emphasis on holding local officials accountable for environmental protection and on intervention and prevention in the form of Environmental Impact Assessments and “red lines” is promising. Greenpeace hopes to see tighter measures taking effect soon. A more proactive MEP could also have a significant impact.
Greenpeace notes the emphasis Minister Chen placed on environmental law and public interest litigation, which Greenpeace has long encouraged as a means to ensure environmental protection.
As the Chinese economy enters its ‘New Normal’ of slower economic growth, Minister Chen’s emphasis on environmental protection as inseparable from good quality economic growth is another positive sign from the press conference.
Greenpeace urges the government to ensure strict supervision of environmental policy and encourages the greater expansion of transparency and public participation in the protection of China’s environment.
Greenpeace notes the below important areas raised in the press conference:
Minister Chen noted improvements in air quality in 74 key cities since 2014, a positive trend also shown in Greenpeace’s independent analysis of air quality across China. However, air pollution across China is still a serious issue. Greenpeace continues to urge the government to introduce a national coal consumption cap in order to quicken the rate of improvement.
‘Ultra-low emission’ technology was noted as a way to clean up the energy sector. Greenpeace points out, however, that this technology cannot guarantee continuous and stable ‘ultra-low emissions’. Moreover, an investigation by Greenpeace has shown that numerous loopholes exist in ‘ultra low emission’ supervision. Regardless, ‘ultra low emission’ technology is not an effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Greenpeace calls on the government to focus on renewable energy as the energy source of the future.
The safety of drinking water was extensively discussed by Minister Chen. Water is the next major environmental challenge for China to tackle. Greenpeace will continue to monitor the implementation of China’s Clean Water Action Plan and calls for deeper public participation in the plan’s implementation.
Ecological Red Lines and Biodiversity
Minister Chen emphasised the urgency of securing ecological redlines and protecting biodiversity, both of which have been frequently undermined by economic activity in the past. While Minister Chen pledges to strengthen supervision of protected areas such as nature reserves, a more precautionary approach with an emphasis on the planning process is desired. Such a move would require top-down institutional change.
Agricultural and Rural Pollution
The prevention of agricultural pollution in rural areas was stated as one of the MEP’s most important objectives for the 13th FYP period. Greenpeace investigations have shown that agricultural, rather than industrial, pollution is the major challenge to the environment in these areas. In particular, Greenpeace calls on the government to pay closer attention to the link between the agricultural chemical inputs and freshwater lake pollution.
Greenpeace stands for positive change through action to defend the natural world and promote peace. We are a non-profit organisation with a presence in 40 countries. To maintain its independence, Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments or corporations but relies on contributions from individual supporters and foundation grants.www.greenpeace.org/eastasia