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Expanding Areas and Moving Toward a New Start-Interpretation of the 12th National Five-Year Plan on Environmental Protection (II)

Major Characteristics of the Plan
There are six characteristics of the Plan. First, the Plan focuses on the theme of scientific development and the central task of transforming economic development model and meets the new requirement of elevating the level of ecological civilization by working actively to explore a new path to environmental protection featuring low cost, good benefit, low emissions and sustainability. The Plan does not confine environmental protection to pure environmental issues such as pollution control. Instead, it integrates environmental protection into the trend of green transformation of the economy, economic restructuring, transformation of economic development model and improving people’s livelihood in every aspect from orientation, targets and tasks to various working fields and policy measures. It aims to realize people’s fervent wish of strengthening environmental protection by safeguarding people’s environmental rights and interest and improving environmental quality.
Second, the field of environmental protection continues to expand and capacity building for environmental protection is further enhanced. The Plan identifies the strategic task of control environmental risks in key areas for the first time. It factors in China’s current situation that it has come to the mid-late period of industrialization and environmental pollution accidents take place frequently which may threaten what we have accomplished in improving environmental quality. Built on the achievement of total pollution control in the 11th Five-Year Plan period and various tasks to better environmental quality, the Plan defines explicitly that environmental risks should be controlled in such key areas as heavy metal, nuclear and radiation, hazardous waste and hazardous chemical management. It highlights the need to improve the system for preventing environmental risks, improving the capability of risk control, particularly to ensure the safety of nuclear and radiation environment. It places the safety of nuclear and radiation environment a precondition for developing nuclear technology and brings forth the requirement of increasing the capability of nuclear safety supervision and improving the performance of nuclear and radiation safety. The Plan, for the first time, puts forward the strategic task of improving the basic public service system on environmental protection. The basic environmental quality that does no harm to people’s health is public good. With regard to unbalanced distribution and insufficient supply of basic environmental services at present, the Plan points out that effort must be made to narrow the gap between the level of environmental service and people’s new expectations, especially the bottleneck of weak foundation in rural environment. It stresses integrated management of rural environment and promotes environmental improvement in rural areas by intensifying the reward-based pollution control policy so as to have the masses in rural areas enjoy the benefits of environmental protection and economic development.
Third, total pollution control will be deepened as a key instrument to drive the transformation of economic development model. The pollution control in the 12th Five-Year Plan period includes control targets in industrial, domestic, agricultural and transport fields. Attention will be paid to guiding and control of economic restructuring, phase-out of backward production capacity and strict implementation of environmental access and clean production. Priority is given to curbing excessive growth of incremental pollutants. Effort is called on to establish equivalence and reduction-based phase-out system and pollution reduction is used as a stimulus to strategic adjustment of economic structures and transformation of economic development model.
Fourth, strenuous effort will be made to solve prominent environmental problems concerning people’s well-being and a better environmental quality is put in a more important place. Pollution of water and urban air environment has become a serious issue affecting scientific development and people’s health. The Plan includes the four kinds of pollutants, COD, NH3, SO2 and NOx into the binding targets for total pollution control and sharply reduces the proportion of water bodies with water quality inferior to Grade V. It also increases the proportion of water bodies with water quality better than Grade III standard among the seven water systems and cities with air quality above Grade II standard. The Plan has put prevention and control of PM2.5 on agenda and made preparations for institutional development for the protection of soil environment. Rehabilitation of contaminated sites and soil in key areas will be highlighted.
Fifth, differentiated environmental management policy is stressed to improve strategic system for environmental protection. The Plan proposes category-based guidance and management by regions taking account of the different environmental functions of different regions with the aim of safeguarding the health of the environment, maintaining the safety of natural ecology and securing the environmental safety of food origins. National environmental function zoning would be developed according to national major function oriented zoning and ecological red-line will be defined in key ecological function zones, sensitive and fragile areas in terrestrial and sea environment. The Plan also puts forward requirements on environmental management directed at the four major function zones and the four main economic regions in the east, central, west and northwest China.
Sixth, the underpinning role of policies is stressed to promote and establish enduring effect mechanism on environmental protection. To ensure the implementation of the Plan, 12 policy measures were spelled out such as environmental target responsibility system and comprehensive decision making mechanism. The Plan stressed the market mechanism and the support of technology and industries. It calls for effort to carry out the electricity price for FGD equipment, study and develop policy on denitration-based electricity price and grant favorable policies to companies producing equipment for in industrial wastewater treatment, environmentally sound treatment of sludge, desulphurization and denitration for non-electric power industry and refuse disposal. On the part of environmental policies, the system on compensated acquisition and use of emission rights will be improved and the market of emission trading will be expanded. Effort will be made to establish a credit system for corporate environmental performance and green rating of banks, promote innovation in environmental financial products and improve market-based financing mechanism. Eco compensation system in river basins and key eco function zones will be established. On the part of research and development, the capability of basic research and application is to be improved and new and high technologies, key technologies and generic technologies for pollution control, environmental protection and environmental risk control will be the focus, particularly technologies for total pollution control. Related assembly and manufacturing industries will be developed. On the part of developing environmental industry, the Plan identifies the need to establish an environmental industry service system, promote the development of a cross-sector and cross-company joint system for recycling and reuse and carry out license system for operation of environmental facilities.
Situation Facing Environmental Protection in the 12th Five-Year Plan Period
First, the socioeconomic development has come to a new era. China’s social economic development will present some staged, new features. The international environment will become more complicated though peace, development and cooperation remain the trend of the times. With the slowdown in global economic growth, evident changes are taking place in the structure of global demand. Competition in market, resources, talents, technology and standard will be more acute. Global issues including climate change, energy and resource security and food security will be more pressing. In the 12th Five-Year Plan period, most of the areas in China will enter the middle and late stage of industrialization with urbanization rate exceeding 50%. People’s income on per capita basis will increase steadily and transformation of economic structure will speed up. There is great potential in market demand and plentiful supply of funds. The overall technology and education level has been improved and infrastructures are getting complete. The society’s environmental awareness is growing stronger than ever. All this has provided advantages for environmental protection. On the other hand, problems of unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development remain serious. Resource and environment has placed more restraint on economic development. This also caused a sharp increase in social conflicts.
Second, environmental protection faces new situation. As industrial structure and distribution are not all that reasonable, the level of pollution control is low and the environmental supervision system not perfect, the entire environmental situation remains grave with increasing pressure. For instance, the total discharge of pollutants is of big volume. In 2010, discharge of COD, NH3, SO2 and NOx were respectively 255.17 million tons, 26.44 million tons, 22.68 million tons and 22.74 million tons, far exceeding the country’s environmental carrying capacity. Meanwhile, China’s consumption of energy continues to grow, which adds to pollution generation. The task of improving environmental quality is growing heavier. Nearly 20% of the monitoring sections of the seven water systems are affected by serious water pollution and eutrophication of lakes is aggravating. Water quality at the estuaries is poor. Nearly 1/5 cities above prefecture level fail to meet Grade II air quality standard. Acid rain pollution remains severe and cities are often haunted by haze. We also face the herculean task of environmental risk control. Environmental pollution caused by vehicle exhaust, heavy metal, hazardous chemicals, POPs, hazardous waste, e-waste and soil contamination are some of the emerging problems. Environmental accidents take place frequently. All this proved that environmental problems have threatened people’s health and public security. Construction of environmental infrastructure in rural areas lags behind. Only a few villages among the 600,000 villages throughout China have carried out pollution control with most still lacking necessary environmental facilities. Environmental work in the rural area is still weak. Basic environmental service is in short supply. There is a big gap in environmental supervision and environmental infrastructure among different regions and between urban and rural areas, which cannot meet people’s ever growing need for such services as environmental quality, infrastructure and information. There is an urgent need to strengthen the supervision of nuclear and radiation safety. The basic work of environmental protection is weak. Insufficient staffing at grassroots level and backward capacity makes it hard to cater for the need of developing environmental cause. International environmental relations are getting complicated and global environmental issues like biodiversity protection are bringing more pressure to us.
Third, environmental protection has come to a new start. In the 11th Five-Year Plan period, great progress has been made in the environmental perception, policy, mechanism and capacity building. A set of strategic thoughts including historical transformation of environmental protection and exploration to a new path to environmental protection have been introduced. All departments and localities were active in exploring and creating a series of mechanism and policies that accommodated to environmental protection and economic development. Pollution control facilities developed rapidly. Municipal sewage treatment rate increased from 52% in 2005 to 72% and the installed capacity of desulphurization systems in coal-fired units jumped from 12% to 82.6%. In the 12th Five-Year Plan period, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council explicitly stated that socioeconomic development will feature the theme of scientific development and center on accelerating the transformation of economic development model. Establishing a resource-efficient and environment-friendly society is taken as a focus and effort will be made to improve the level of ecological civilization. This presents a new, historic opportunity for rapid development of environmental cause and environmental protection will enter a new historical stage.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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