Mar. 23, 2023

Report on the 2011 NPC & CPPCC Sessions: the Environment Edition

 March 14, 2011


Reported by: Chen Xiyu, Liu Bin


During the 2010 annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, new environmental concepts such as “low-carbon economy” drew the attention of NPC deputies and CPPCC members to environmental pollution and protection. In the Third Session of the 11th CPPCC National Committee, the Central Committee of the Democratic Revolutionary Party proposed that the government should fully carry out the building of “Green China” in the aspects of ecological environment, economy and culture. Li Yin, NPC deputy and Principal of Wuhuan Experimental Foreign Languages School, suggested innovating the means of garbage disposal and promoting garbage classification at the grassroots level in order to reduce garbage pollution and improve recycling as well as achieve sustainable development goals. Deputy Tang Zuxuan, director of Dengzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine based in Henan Province, advocated low-carbon transportation among public servants, such as riding bikes between home and the workplace, so as to reduce air pollution and energy consumption.

Before the opening of the NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2011, the Politics & Culture Division of People’s Daily and People’s Daily Online considered possible public concerns over the annual sessions and jointly launched an extensive online poll named “Top Ten Concerns of Netizens in 2011.”  The poll provided 18 key words indicating hot topics of the year, including impartial and fair administration of justice, anti-corruption, health care reform, regulating housing prices, commodity prices control, food safety, environmental pollution, educational reform, democracy and the legal system, lawful demolition, household registration reform, traffic control as well as bringing to the forefront other heated issues.

As of 9 a.m. February 16, “Environmental Pollution” was ranked fifth with 7583 votes. This is the first time that “Environmental Pollution” has been selected as one of the hot topics, and later as one of the top ten issues of concern.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll about “Environmental Pollution” further shows that 93 percent of 3207 participants think “the environmental pollution of China is very severe.” Regarding the main cause of environmental pollution, 75 percent of them blame “local governments which sacrifice the environment to economic gains”, while 11% opt for “inadequate supervision.” Of all the participants, 39% supports strengthening punishment to raise the public awareness of environmental protection, and 11% call on the media and public figures to play a bigger role in enhancing such awareness

The year 2011 is the first year of China’s National Twelfth Five-Year Plan which clarifies the direction of development over the following five years and will become a top concern of the annual sessions. Specific information closely related to environmental pollution, such as emission reduction standards, has been expected to be gradually made clear, and plans on specific areas will likely be unveiled. Meanwhile, based on suggestions of deputies, the NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee has recently noted that it will start sorting out and revising several items in The Environmental Protection Law, which will be included into the 2011 work plan of the Standing Committee of the NPC.

With the rapid development of the Chinese economy and increase of material wealth, people are increasingly concerned about the quality of the living environment while enjoying a better life. The development model of economic growth heretofore pursued by China has relied on the consumption of significant natural resources and has brought harm to the ecology and environment.  Therefore, mindful of pollution control and environmental protection, delegates from all walks of life worked out different proposals with the aim of sustainable development.

I. Appeal for the Implementation of “Environmental Pollution Liability Insurance”

Currently, China remains in the peak period of pollution accidents. As there exist lots of potential dangers caused by pollution, chronic, acute and accidental incidents occur more and more frequently. Research shows that 81 percent of 7555 large chemical industry projects across the country are located in environmentally sensitive area such as the waters and heavily populated areas. 45 percent of them are considered as key risk sources.

Restricted by various factors, the environmental liability insurance in China is developing rather slowly. Wu Yan, secretary of the party committee of the People's Insurance Company of China as well as member of the CPPCC National Committee, appeals for a faster development of environmental liability insurance and moving toward alow carbon economy; meanwhile he also suggests further improving the system of environmental liability insurance and establishing and perfecting related laws and regulations so as to promote the development of China’s low carbon economy, build an ecological civilization, and construct an environmentally friendly society.

II. Developing the Green Fund

At present, the capital invested in environmental industries is still limited by the investing and financing mode, integrating investment, construction and operation in the field of the environmental infrastructure in China. Financial funding is far from enough to meet the need of developing environmental industries, and professional investment operators are still developing in the initial stage. The capital market is still undeveloped, and the existing channels of industry funds are not capable of supporting the deepening and development of environmental industries.

One of the difficulties environmental industries at present are faced with is that the financial funding is utterly inadequateand industry fund is also quite insufficient. Li Dang, general manager of China General Technology Group, also a Standing Committee member of the CPPCC, proposes that we should innovate the financing mode of environmental industries, setting up green funds, and introduce social capital to develop environmental industries. Li thinks the conflict, which besets the area of environment, between the urge of financial needs and the insufficient supply could be solved if we properly innovate the institution, improve the present investment and financing mode, introduce the majority social capital to the area of environment with motivation and channels to invest, and try to explore a new way to combine the social capital and the national investment.

III. "Garbage Tax" needed For Refuse Disposal

The collection and transportation of garbage bags and bins in towns and cities of our country cause rather serious secondary pollution in the city. With the growing amount of garbage, removal and transportation costs paid annually by government, including costs of fuel, maintenance, labor, etc., increase every day, so related public expenditure keeps rising. Meanwhile, in some cities, the method to deal with refuse disposal is rather backward, as garbage is directly put into the landfill instead of being separately collected. Even by establishing garbage power stations, air pollutants such as dioxin remaintoo common, so this is like  spreading the garbage from the ground into the air, causing even greater environmental pollution. Garbage disposal  has now become the biggest problem of urbanization, second only to transportation issues.

Dai Xiaoyan, Deputy Chairman of Sichuan Provincial Committee of Jiu San Society, also a member of the CPPCC National Committee, appeals for "garbage tax" which means "citizens shall pay for the garbage they produce." Therefore, while providing more support for the investment of financial funds, the government also imposes reasonable garbage taxes according to the law so as to solve the financial problem of separate garbage collection and disposition. Meanwhile, Dai believes that the secondary pollution in the city, caused by the collection and transportation of garbage bags and bins in towns and cities, is so serious that China shall legislate for separate garbage collection and disposition.

IV. Monitoring Standard Shall Advance With the Times

The latest study shows that at present the structure of air pollution has changed from coal-smoke pollution to compound pollution of both coal-smoke and vehicle exhaust, embodying the pollution with SO2, NO2, VOC, PM10, PM2.5, etc. existing at the same time of high density. PM2.5 refers to particulate matter with 2.5 or less microns and can be inhaled into the lungs. Though human eyes cannot identify it, it is the main cause for black lung and dust-haze. The result of the study shows that the root cause for dust-haze lies in the pollution of fine particle matter (PM2.5).

The urban air quality level is determined by the Air Pollution Index which results from three indexes: PM10, SO2 and NO2. Since the large particle index that API adopts is PM10, without considering PM2.5, it is common to notice the phenomenon which is called in China “"frequent dust-haze, still nice air quality."

In light of this, leaders of the Democratic Progressive Party proposed to follow international practices concerning the monitoring and evaluation of air quality, thus revising our current system for air quality standard and evaluation (API): using PM2.5 as the standard for air quality and regularly monitor PM2.5; include PM2.5 in the API system so as to better inform the public about air quality and haze weather in our country; include surface ozone into the API system; reinforce the control of vehicle exhaust as well as preventing coal-burning pollution, and timely adjust the limits of nitrogen dioxide and surface ozone in our active Ambient Air Quality Standard.

V. Carry Out Land Pollution Census

For a long time, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and plastic mulch used in our agricultural industry have severely threatened the quality of farmland. Besides, industrial waste including the “three wastes” of waste gas, waste water and waste residue are not properly discharged. There is no scientific realization that some heavy metal elements (like arsenic, cadmium and lead) which remain in the grains will cause serious danger to people’s health.

Tong Shijun, CPPCC National Committee member, former member of the ninth standing committee of All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, appealed to “carry out land pollution census every five years.” In order to protect farmland and prevent farmland pollution, detailed first hand material should be provided to authorities for their reference in making regulations concerning pollution prevention and in conducting comprehensive treatment. Four ministries of the Chinese government, including the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Public Health, should make a special team and, as soon as possible, carry out national farmland pollution census every five years.

VI. Enforcing Limits on Plastic Bags

Since June 2008, when China started the “plastic limit order,” plastic bag use in supermarkets has dropped significantly, and consumers’ environmental consciousness has been gradually raised. However, there is recently a decreasing enforcement of the “plastic limit order” in supermarkets, and it is still common for sellers other than supermarkets to provide plastic bags and ultra-thin bags free of charge.

Huanyou Science and Technology Studies Centre in Chaoyang, Beijing conducted an investigation concerning the enforcement of “plastic limit order” in Hangzhou, Zhengzhou and Harbin during the latter half of 2010. The study shows that in these three cities, 63% of all chain supermarkets charge for plastic bags, but this figure is a decrease from that of the previous year. As to the retailers who are not chain supermarkets, the percentage is only 26.3%.

Chen Fei, NPC representative, farmer from Zhu’an, Yongjia, Zhejiang suggested “everyone carries a shopping basket,” appealing to specify the departments responsible for the “plastic limit order.” Meanwhile, related departments should draw up a plan of the “plastic limit action” during the 12th Five-year Plan.

VII. Harmless Treatment and Recycling of Food Waste

Food waste is a special kind of urban domestic waste with abundant organics and moisture, perishable, and causinga harmful influence on the environment. It accounts for 50% of urban domestic waste, and the best method to recycle it is to compost or make marsh gas. Decomposable plastic bags, used to wrap food waste, will together be converted into fertilizers or energy in processes like composting. Committee member Shi Yaozhong submitted “The act of harmless treatment and recycling of food waste in China” at the Fourth Section of the Eleventh CPPCC National Conference, suggesting promoting the legislation of “Regulations on food waste treatment” and reinforcing management of the innocent treatment and recycling of food waste.

Shi Yaozhong raises compulsory recycling and centralized treatment. Enterprises with the city garbage operation license should be in charge of the recycling and treatment of kitchen waste. Catering enterprises should hand over kitchen waste everyday and set standard special containers and other equipment for collection of garbage. Enterprises collecting garbage should go to catering enterprises for kitchen waste at least one time every day. During the process of transportation, they should not leak or sprinkle the garbage.

VIII. Legislation to Promote the Use of Degradable Plastic Bag

Chinese urban household garbage has amounted to more than seven billion tonnes, and annual transported garbage of 665 cities all over the country has amounted to 0.16 billion tonnes. Therefore, garbage landfill uses up significant space. However, this garbage cannot be disposed of effectively. To solve the problem, Yang Han, member of the CPPCC National Committee suggests that we should seriously evaluate the mode of life consumption and garbage treatment, legislate to advocate refuse classification, build composting plants and use degradable plastic bags. Among the mentioned methods, the use of degradable plastic bags is the key point and breach for solving the problem.

Yang Han suggests the government legislate to promote the use of degradable plastic bags. Produced bags should comply with national standards. Business markets, service places and residential places can provide degradable plastic bags for free or with compensation. Departments concerned should examine, approve and record polymer material, meliorated material and enterprises manufacturing disposable bags and shopping bags. The department should give these enterprises financial subsidies and supporting policies such as tax reduction and export tax rebate. Besides, they should impose heavier tax on traditional polyolefine plastic bags.

Expert Readind

By analyzing opinion of Two Conference’s committee members and delegates, cyber public opinion and social public feelings, we can easily find that Chinese  people are becoming more and more concerned about environmental protection, our living environment and environmental pollution. Apart from traditional prevention and management methods, committee members and delegates make creative proposals on the basis of their study field in order to solve current environmental problems in China. 

At first, environmental liability insurance, environmental protection funds and garbage taxation belong to effective methods of controlling environmental pollution by economic policy and financial tools.

Secondly, standardization of measurement and management become very popular. Compared with advanced countries, China is relatively backward in the aspect of environmental pollution treatment. Prevention and treatment regulations borrowed from advanced countries do not fit with our current situation well. China has made progress in environmental protection by applying measurement standards complying with our situation for examination, supervision and treatment of environmental pollution.

Thirdly, improved legal awareness advances legislation, thus promoting the awareness of protecting the environment by law. Chinese environmental legislation is relatively backward, thus becoming a serious barrier to prevention and control of environmental pollution. We have to establish and improve environmental pollution regulations to promote low-carbon economic development, and build up  an environmentally friendly society.

In the end, apart from professionals’ design of proposals, it is also the responsibility of citizens to pay attention to  the development of the Chinese environmental protection cause. These committee members and delegates have actively offered opinions and advice. They advance the environmental protection cause by making practical proposals from daily life details such as protection of farmland, treatment of life waste, restriction of plastic bags’ use and so on.


Translator: Qin KaiTongjun Han Huijuan

Proofreader: Stephen Davis, Angela Merriam

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