Environmental quality to be included in performance evaluation of government officials:
Car control should be implemented in cities populated by tens of millions of people
China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection
March 13, 2011 09:50:36 Source: Beijing Morning Post
Yesterday at a press conference of the Fourth Session of the Eleventh National People's Congress, Zhang Lijun, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection said that local governments should be held accountable for environmental protection and energy conservation; not only GDP but also environmental improvement in the region should be included in evaluating local governments’ performance. Zhang also claimed that based on practical conditions, it is suitable for China to implement environmental standards of developing countries. In recent years, Beijing has significantly improved its environment and its next step is to further regulate motor vehicle emissions and dust pollution from construction projects.
Environmental quality to be included in performance evaluation of government officials
Zhang Lijun predicts that during the period of 12th Five-Year Plan, China's coal consumption is likely to continue to rise. “The consumption increased by 1 billion tons during the 11th Five-Year Plan period. Simple calculation based on possible demand during the 12th Five-Year Plan shows China’s coal consumption will probably increase by 1 billion tons again.” Said Zhang Lijun with deep concern, “Just imagine how serious the impact on China’s environment will be with an additional 1 billion tons of coal consumed.”
According to Zhang Lijun, during the 12th Five-Year Plan, emission reduction measures will be further strengthened to reduce pollutants, and the emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides will continue to decline on the basis of 2010. Pollution control measures will continue to be carried out in key rivers including the "three rivers and three lakes" (namely, Huihe, Haihe, Liaohe; Taihu, Chaohu, Chenchi), the Three Gorges Reservoir area, Xiaolangdi Reservoir area, the region along the South-to-North Water Division Project, as well as the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and Beijing, Tianjin and other key areas, with emphasis on preventing and controlling pollution of heavy metal and hazardous chemical substances; prevention and control of pollution in rural areas will be strengthened with the policy that awards environmental improvements.
Meanwhile, Zhang Lijun stressed the need to hold local governments accountable for environmental protection and energy conservation; not only GDP but also environmental improvement in the region should be included in evaluating local governments’ performance.
Car control should be implemented in cities populated by tens of millions of people
According to the 12th Five-Year Plan, in addition to emission reduction targets of chemical oxygen demand and sulfur dioxide emissions, China will also start to set targets for nitrogen oxides and ammonia, which is in accordance with the need for environmental protection and improvement. Among the four targets, Zhang Lijun thought that the target for nitrogen oxides would be the most difficult to achieve. "Nitrogen oxides come not only from factories and coal-burning, but a great deal of the emissions are from motor vehicles. That’s why emission of nitrogen oxides is the hardest for China to control."
In order to achieve the target, Zhang suggested that the number of motor vehicles should be controlled in cities populated by over tens of millions of people, and the overall emission of nitrogen oxide in the power and cement industry should also be regulated; it is recommended that the implementation of coal control be explored in the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, Beijing and Tianjin, and the total emission of nitrogen oxides should be set as a new criteria for approval of new projects; thermal power and cement projects must be installed with effective catalytic reduction equipment.
Zhang Lijun said that China is speeding up the implementation of the National Ⅳ emission standards for motor vehicles and accelerating oil refinery upgrading to improve oil quality, so as to make nation-wide supply of National Ⅳ oil as soon as possible.
Zhang said the effort in eliminating high emission vehicles will be increased with the primary goal of phasing out high emission vehicles licensed before the year 2005 in the central region, and those licensed before 2010 in central and western regions. The effort is focused on diesel vehicles. "Research shows a high emission vehicle gives off exhaust gas as much as 28 times the emissions of a National Ⅳvehicle. By eliminating the high emission vehicles, China can have more new cars to use the spare emission capacity.”
■ Implementation in Beijing
Increase control over motor vehicle emissions
Some foreign journalists criticized Beijing’s serious pollution. In response Zhang said Beijing has achieved significant environmental improvement in recent years; its next step is to further strengthen the regulation over motor vehicle emissions, and dust pollution caused by construction projects.
Zhang Lijun said that last year, the number of days when Beijing's air quality was good accounted for 88.4% of the year, an increase of nearly 20 % from 2005. “The environmental standards applied in China are recommended by the World Health Organization for developing countries. Many of the reporters are from developed countries which have adopted different standards. China's current conditions make it appropriate for it to implement the standards for developing countries.”
According to Zhang, at the end of last year, Shougang Iron and Steel, the largest polluter, was shut down and few industrial enterprises are still left in the downtown area. “What follows is to deal with the issues of motor vehicles and dust pollution. The total number of motor vehicles in Beijing has reached 5 million so far. Motor vehicles are, therefore, the main source of air pollutants.” It is reported that Beijing plans to implement the National Ⅴ vehicle emission standards early, reaching the same standard level as developed countries in 2012.
In addition, the dust issue caused by construction projects will also be dealt with, and in the meantime, the environmental protection department is compiling a plan for prevention and control over air pollution in the area of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei provinces.
■ At the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPCC)
With good understanding of the current situation, one should not be afraid of media questioning
"The next question is left for overseas media to ask.” This is what impressed the reporter after attending several press conferences of the NPC and CPCC.
Reporters of overseas media are well known for their bold and tricky questions. For instance, at yesterday’s press conference held by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, an Associated Press reporter asked the question: “I have been living with my family in Beijing for a few years. I feel Beijing is badly polluted, including its air and water. Every day I open windows and feel the air is very dirty. This significantly impacts my family and children. I was wondering how Chinese government officials and Chinese people look at this issue. What do you think of China’s pollution? Air pollution and water pollution may lead to cancer and other health issues. What will be done to improve the current situation?”
This is a tough question. If Zhang answered it with some political rhetoric, overseas media wouldn’t be satisfied. Zhang, the Vice Minister, answered with clear logic. To summarize, he said: first, evidence shows that the environment has improved; secondly, as China is a developing country, we implement the standards specifically for developing countries, and please do not expect us to adopt the U.S. standards; thirdly, we will continue our efforts in this regard. Several reporters considered this answer honest and sincere.
The purpose of press conferences is to let reporters ask questions. A responsible reporter is eager to get answers to sensitive questions. Though some questions may be very tough, the government shows people that it knows its job by directly facing these questions. (Beijing Morning News reporter Wang Ping)
Translator: BAO Lan
Proofreader: Karen Marshall