MEP Vice Minister Pan Yue stressed at Meeting of China Environment News on Publicity held on September 14 that recent several environmental pollution accidents once again reflect the importance and urgency of disclosure of environmental information. Environmental protection departments at all levels should carry out the spirit of national meeting on administration according to law, make more efforts in deepening the system for disclosing environmental information and seek for prompt, accurate and complete environmental information that is open to the public. Meanwhile, news media shall pay comprehensive attention to and objectively report environmental information and plays their important supervision role.
National Meeting on Administration according to Law held not long ago pointed out that openness, transparency and power operation under the sun is an important characteristics of modern government. Further promoting transparent administration aims at better understanding of, wider participation in and more direct supervision on government operation by the public. In particular, we should focus on promoting information disclosure in such fields as financial budget, allocation of public resources, approval and implementation of key construction projects and development of social welfare cause.
The meeting also pointed out the special importance of public direct supervision on the government. The government should support exposure of violations or improper administrative conducts by news media. Administrative departments should seriously investigation and verify the issues & problems reported by the public or news media, deal with it in time according to law and make public the outcomes. At the same time, administrative departments at all levels should further set up and improve the rules for important decisions and take public participation as one of necessary procedures during decision making.
Vice Minister Pan said, Ministry of Environmental Protection is the first ministry that formulates and implements the Measures on Disclosure of Environmental Information soon after the release of Regulations on Disclosure of Government Information by the State Council; the first that released and implemented the Measures on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment as well as the first ministry that held transparent public hearing on environmental protection of the Yuanmingyuan Park. These measures are new things, so we have both experience and lessons. However, our achievements are predominant. The latest frequent occurrence of sudden environmental pollution accidents highlight the projection and and necessity of these measures. For example, the disclosure of pollution accidents in Zijin Mining Company 9 days after its occurrence caused wide public concern on disclosure of environmental information and supervision by environmental protection department. This typical case once again reminds us the urgency of more efforts in promoting disclosure of environmental information.
Vice Minister Pan said, disclosure of environmental information is beneficial to shift of government functions. Environmental protection matters the immediate interests of tends of thousands of households and reflects modern way of administration. It is an important window showcasing various kinds of contradictions and needs and a trial platform for carrying out various kinds of policies according to law. Environmental information is an important component of government information, disclosing it to the public itself is an important part of government services. Disclosing environmental information enables the public understand environmental decision making and plans of local governments in an all round way; accurately understand environmental protection measures and their implementation by local governments; effectively prevent "will of the officialdom" and abuse of power of some local government in public affairs including environmental protection; give full play to the role of media and society to supervise the law enforcement conducts and enforce the violators to make corrections in time. This is an effective measure for stringing administrative supervision and promoting functional change of the government.
Vice Minister Pan said, disclosure of environmental information is beneficial to sustainable economic development. At present, some polluting enterprise obtain very high profit margin at very low cost of environment and resources due to the protection of local administrative force. Thus these enterprises have huge advantage in market competition and attract the input of new investment. This conduct not only causes huge damage to public interests, but also leads to market distortion and hinders shift of economic growth mode and economic restructuring. Disclosing environmental information may force these polluting enterprises to shoulder their due economic and social cost and standardize the decision making and resource allocation by local governments during economic growth; ensure the flow of production elements such as fund, labor, resources and environment towards sustainable development. In doing so, economic restructuring and growth mode shift will be accelerated, legitimate public rights and interests will be guaranteed and achievements of economic growth will be shared by the whole society.
Vice Minister Pan pointed out that disclosing environmental information is beneficial to strengthening environmental supervision & management system. Disclosure of environmental information is a brand new environmental management approach. It recognizes public right in getting access to environmental information and criticism. The disclosure of relevant information imposes pressure on the enterprise that causes environmental pollution and ecological damages with the help of public opinions and supervision. Environmental protection is an important public welfare issue and needs wide public participation. Disclosure of environmental information would effectively ensure smooth operation of the environmental protection mechanism "guiding by CPC commission, taking responsibility by the government, supervision by the people’s congress and environmental protection departments and participation by the entire society"; further strengthen environmental protection responsibility of local governments; identify the responsibility of enterprises as the main body for environmental protection; make clear the position of supervision & management by environmental protection departments at all levels. Each government department should fulfill its function and perform its responsibility so that the general public can have accurate and in-depth understanding about social role and responsibilities of local governments, environmental protection administrative departments and enterprises.
The national meeting on administration according to law pointed out that all government information will be comprehensively and accurately disclosed to the public in the future in time and detail so that the public can understand and use it. In case of applying for disclosing government information, relevant department should give a reply within a given time period according to law and do well relevant service work. The government should set up and improve a mechanism that supervises and ensures disclosure of government information and carry out regular assessment and examination of such work.
Vice Minister Pan said, based on the spirit of the meeting, disclosure of environmental information should be in time. We should release relevant information at the first time without any delay and concealment. Local governments and environmental protection departments should not satisfy with release of environmental information once in every quarter, six months or even one year. They should release environmental information at any time based on situation and work requirement so that the public can have a dynamic and deepen understanding about environmental information.
Second, disclosure of environmental information should be based on facts and avoid misguiding, exaggerating or playing down. When releasing environmental information, local governments and environmental protection departments should not evade major responsibility and take the minor or report only good news. They should make public all the outcomes and reflect the problems based on facts.
Third, the disclosed environmental information should be complete. The disclosed information should be specific and in detail and avoid ambiguity and concealment. That is, local governments and enterprises in particular listed companies should not present general environmental information with professional terms and ambiguous description of key issues, they should not avoid the environmental risks that may affect the public and society as well as correction program. The general public can understand and get access to all information.
Vice Minister Pan said, news media is an important medium for disclosure of environmental information and has important functions and roles such as releasing environmental information of government departments, industries and enterprises; active media supervision and report public environmental requirements. Disclosing environmental information in media reflects credibility of the government, represents fairness and social justice. With more disclosure of government information, media will play more and more important role in supervision. As the only professional newspaper in the field of environment, China Environment News should play a leading role in disclosing environmental information.
Mr. Qian Jianmin, Mayor of Shaoxing City, Zhejiang Province addressed the meeting, too.