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Date issued:2020-08-19
Win the battle to defend the blue sky, clear water and pure land, and implement the upgraded version of pollution prevention and control battle during the 14th FYP

- Interview with Wang Jinnan, President of Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, Academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering,Deputy of the 13th National People's Congress


 

2020 marks the final year of building a moderately well-off society in an all-round way and implementing the 13th Five-year Plan (FYP), the decider of the victory of the pollution prevention and control war, and the foundation for the 14th FYP to set out. As one of the "three formidable battles" in the deciding period to build China a moderately prosperous society, the pollution prevention and control war proposed on the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China regards improving the quality of ecological environment as the core, and addressing issues concerning atmosphere, water and soil pollution highlighted by the masses as the key, in its efforts to comprehensively reinforce the prevention and treatment of environmental pollution. At this critical time node, what achievements have been secured in the fight against pollution? How will the fight come to a perfect end in face of the COVID-19 in 2020? How to start new tasks for the 14th FYP when the current assignments have been done? Our journal (Environmental Protection) initiated a special interview with Wang Jinnan, a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress, the president of the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Environmental Protection: Deputy Wang Jinnan, now that you have participated in the NPC and CPPCC several times, have you noticed any difference these years? Especially for the public concern of the ecological and environmental protection issue, are there any changes in suggestions of other deputies and concern of the government in recent years?

Wang: I was made deputy to the National People's Congress for the first time in 2018. Before that, I was appointed the deputy to the 14th and 15th People's Congress of Beijing. As deputy of the People's Congress of Beijing, I was chiefly supposed to provide suggestions on the ecological civilization construction and ecological and environmental protection of the municipality. After taking the capacity, I had a broader field of vision and greater responsibility. Therefore, for each year's National People's Congress, I would investigate and study as early as possible, collect opinions from the masses, thoroughly discuss the state affairs, and prepare to make suggestions.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, our ecological civilization construction and ecological and environmental protection have entered a new historical stage. Especially when the war against pollution was declared in 2013, the Chinese government successively issued the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, and Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, with unprecedented achievement registered in the fight against atmospheric pollution. After the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese government deployed the pollution prevention and control battle, and the battle to defend the blue sky, clear water and pure land. This process was fully recounted in the suggestions and opinions of the representatives and members of the NPC and CPPCC since 2018.

Viewed from the National People’s Congress in the past three years, the deputies are fully concerned and support the pollution prevention and control battle. In 2018, with much light shed on the pollution prevention and control battle proposed in the Government Work Report, deputies took an eager part in the discussion and review of the Government Work Report and put forward many suggestions on how to fight the pollution prevention and control battle. On this occasion, I raised 6 suggestions on the battle against pollution. During the National People’s Congress of 2019, many deputies liked China’s achievements made in the fight against pollution, especially the blue-sky happiness obtained thanks to promulgation of the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan. Also, some deputies expressed their opinions on whether to continue strengthening the implementation of the pollution prevention and control measures. At the critical moment, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech delivered for the Inner Mongolia delegation provided direction, confidence and determination for us to firmly fight the battle against pollution. Even though the National People's Congress of 2020 was held at a special moment, against a special backdrop, and under the world's attention, the pollution prevention and control was still thoroughly deployed in the Government Work Report. To sustain the fight against pollution in a difficult period of economic downturn and fiscal revenue decline, while a majority of the central fiscal expenditure budgets shrink, the investment in ecological and environmental protection has increased from RMB390.6 billion in 2019 to RMB407.3 billion in 2020, showing the government’s determination to win the battles to defend the blue sky, clear water and pure land.

Environmental Protection: Since you have been keeping an eye on the anti-pollution battle in the past 3 years, what are your main suggestions in this regard? And what are your new concerns compared to the past?

Wang: Over the past three years, I never quit my attention on the anti-pollution war and the battle to defend the blue sky, clear water, and pure land. My concerns cover the top-level design, emission reduction measures, policy reforms, and regulation/law formulation. In 2018, I presented 9 proposals, such as including the Fenwei Plain in the national key area for air pollution prevention and control, continuing to implement the "coal to electricity" and "coal to gas" projects, strengthening the comprehensive rectification of "scattered and polluted" enterprises, establishing the people's environmental protection supervisor system, setting up the environmental policy planning cost-benefit analysis system and formulating the Law on the Promotion of Ecological Civilization Construction. In 2019, I raised 5 suggestions on implementing the National Blue Sea Action Plan, implementing the national comprehensive treatment demonstration project for coal gangue, and formulating the "Yellow River Protection Law".

For 2020, the deciding year for building a moderately well-off society, shaking off poverty and winning the anti-pollution battle, I added no new concerns and kept my eyes unwaveringly on the anti-pollution battle and the battle to defend the blue sky, clear water, and pure land. Shifting my focus to the top level design, I submitted 3 suggestions targeting at 2020, the 14th FYP and 2035 to draw a perfect end to the pollution prevention and control war, implement the upgraded version of the anti-pollution war in the 14th FYP, and formulate the Action Plan to Build a Beautiful China, respectively. Besides, in conjunction with the reform of the major ecological civilization system, I also made two legislative proposals on accelerating the investigation of ecological and environmental responsible entities and compensation on ecological and environmental damage. I hope these suggestions, worked out based on my participation in the design and implementation of the pollution prevention and control battle, could help smoothly end the battle.

Environmental Protection: Apart from reviewing the work done in 2019 and 2020, the Government Work Report 2020 confirmed remarkable progress made in the battles to defend the blue sky, clear water and pure land. Please give us a review on the said progress.

Wang: In December 2017, the Central Economic Work Conference finalized the three essential wars in the three coming years to prevent and resolve major risks in the comprehensive building of a moderately well-off society, precisely get rid of poverty, and fight against pollution. At the first meeting of the Central Committee of Finance and Economics on April 2, 2018, General Secretary Xi Jinping detailed the initiatives for the fight against pollution, one of the three fights for comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society. On May 18, 2018, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized at the National Ecological and Environmental Protection Conference that resolute efforts shall be made to fight against the pollution. On June 16, 2018, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Opinions on Comprehensively Strengthening the Ecological and Environmental Protection and Resolutely Fighting against Pollution to clarify the timetable, road map, and mission statement for the fight. Speaking of the anti-pollution war at the Central Economic Work Conference in December 2019, General Secretary Xi Jinping highlighted that we shall maintain the direction and intensity, underscore the pollution treatment in an accurate, scientific and legal manner, and promote the continuous improvement of the ecological and environmental quality.

For more than two years since 2018, the state has successively issued such special action plans as the Three-Year Action Plan for Winning the War to Defend the Blue Sky and local departments have promulgated implementation opinions or action plans on the anti-pollution war in a row. Seven iconic wars have been launched to defend the blue sky, dispose of pollution caused by the diesel-fueled trucks, dispose of black and stinky water, comprehensively cope with the Bohai Sea, protect and restore the Yangtze River, protect the water source, and curb the agricultural pollution. Greater efforts have been made in the pollution prevention and control to make key progress.

I) The ecological and environmental quality has been generally refined. The proportion of sections with good surface water across the country increased from 67.9% in 2017 to 74.9% in 2019, and that of sections with Grade V poor water dropped from 8.3% in 2017 to 3.4% in 2019. The proportion of cities at prefecture level or above failing to meet the demand of annual concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) declined by 23.1% during the 13th FYP. Nine binding indicators concerning the ecological and environmental matters in the 13th FYP planning met or surpassed the progress requirements of the planning, and seven were completed ahead of schedule.

II) It has effectively promoted the acceleration of the supply-side reform. The clean heating pilot city program in Northern China has covered all cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and its surrounding, and the Fenwei Plain. Scattered coal of over 7mln households has been addressed. 86% of coal power generating units have been retrofitted for ultra-low emission. The world's largest ultra-low-emission clean coal power supply system has been built, which yields a capacity of 780 million tons of crude steel. Clean energy has accounted for 23.1% of total energy consumption in the country, and coal consumption has dropped to 57.7%. Coal distribution and transportation port in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region has realized the "Highway to Railway" transformation. More than 24 million yellow-license vehicles and old vehicles have been eliminated altogether, and the production, sales and ownership of new energy vehicles have steadily increased.

III) A batch of prominent problems have been solved. Air pollution prevention and control actions for autumns and winters have been continued in key regions. Treatment of volatile organic compounds in industrial furnace and key industries has been promoted. Differentiated management and control measures have been adopted for key industries based on the company's environmental performance. 96.2% of black and odorous water bodies has been eliminated in municipalities, provincial capitals, and cities specially designated in the state plan. 60,292 sewage outfalls into the Yangtze River and 18,886 sewage outfalls into the Bohai Sea have been investigated. Through the special investigation and remediation of the "Three Phosphorus Issues" in the Yangtze River, the number of sections in the Yangtze River basin with content of total phosphorus exceeding the standard dropped by 40.7% year-on-year. Comprehensive improvement of the rural environment has been completed in 25,000 administrative villages. Detailed investigation of soil pollution in agricultural land has been completed. Construction of pilot "No-waste Cities" has been launched in "11+5" cities and regions. The entry of foreign garbage has been unswervingly prohibited, with actual import of solid wastes declining by 40.4% year-on-year the nation over.

Environmental Protection: The pollution prevention and control in 2020, the closing year, has attracted extra-wide attention. The COVID-19 indeed imposed some impact on the work in the first half of this year. How will the pollution prevention and control draw a perfect end this year?

Wang: It's an expectation shared by the people and a requirement to comprehensively build a moderately well-off society to generally refine the ecological and environmental quality and put the pollution prevention and control to a perfect end. Currently thanks to the joint efforts of Party committees and governments at all levels, various departments and the entire society, notable enhancement has been made in ecological and environmental quality and marked achievement has been registered in the seven iconic battles. However, we must be soberly aware that the result of ecological and environmental enhancement is unstable, there's a long way to go to reach the closing objective for certain fields, greater difficulty is ahead for continuous improvement, there's a notable gap with people's expectation, and the ecological civilization construction and ecological and environmental protection are still "short board" and "weakness" of the economic and social development. Now, only half a year is left before end of the building of a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and the 13th FYP, it's recommended that governments at all levels overcome the huge difficulties brought by the COVID-19, maintain strategic determination and stick to the same direction and strength, ensuring a perfect end of the anti-pollution war.

I) maintain strategic determination and do a good job in pollution prevention and control to ensure the goals and tasks of the tough battle are successfully completed. This important time node of the closing year has set clear targets, tasks and keynote for policies for the fight against pollution. It is imperative to maintain strategic determination, continue to increase efforts, not to relax, not to look back, pay close attention to highlighted issues, and concentrate on key links, thereby ensuring the battle to defend the blue sky, clear water and pure land is deeply advanced and new breakthrough is made. For the top priority of the battle to defend the blue sky, efforts shall be made to plan for the collaborative prevention and treatment of PM2.5 and O3, take into account the autumn-winter seasons and spring-summer ones, and key areas and urban cluster, focus on clean heating and substitution with scattered coal, complete the ultra-low emission restructuring of sectors such as the steel and construction of projects like the "highway to railway" transformation, and speed up promoting the governance of industrial kilns and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in key industries, thus fulfilling binding goals such as the proportion of days with good weather quality. The result of dealing with heavy pollution weather affects the "completeness" of building a moderately well-off society in an all-round manner. It is recommended to strengthen the response to severely polluted days in autumn and winter, build a technical system to cope with severely polluted weather, and study, inform, warn and response in advance.

II) Well conduct the environmental protection services, collectively plan for the epidemic prevention and control, and do well the "six stability" and "six guarantees." Strictly implement the Guiding Opinions on Coordinating the Pandemic Prevention and Control, the Economic and Social Development, and the Ecological and Environmental Protection. Accelerate the implementation of the "Two Positive Lists" of environmental assessment approval and supervision and law enforcement, expand the implementation time and coverage, and well link with the pollution discharge permit management and the emergency list of heavy pollution days. Improve the national and local environmental assessment accounts for major foreign investment projects, take the initiative to provide environmental assessment and approval services, and promote the implementation of major investment projects. Support the development of the environmental service industry, deepen the third-party treatment of environmental pollution in the park, and promote the implementation of a batch of technological achievements with good pollution treatment effects. Make overall plans and good use of supervision and assistance, deeply understand the concerns of enterprises, and do a good job in sending preferential policies, funds, technologies and services to help enterprises solve practical difficulties in pollution control.

III) Adhere to the bottom line of thinking and pay attention to preventing and dissolving ecological and environmental risks. Well treat and dispose of medical wastes through a normalized way of prevention and control, accelerate the makeup for shortcomings in medical waste and hazardous waste collection and disposal facilities, significantly improve the emergency response capabilities for management and disposal of environment with medical wastes, ensure 100% coverage of supervision and services for environment with medical waste and sewage, and guarantee 100% implementation of timely and effective collection, transfer and disposal. Pay close attention to high-risk areas such as the “one waste, one pond and one product” (hazardous waste, tailings pond, and hazardous chemicals), intensify the hazard investigations, pay attention to summary assessment, try to eliminate hidden hazards in a premature state, and properly respond to environmental emergencies. With ecological safety, biosafety, nuclear and radiation safety and other areas included in the national overall security concept as the focus, we shall appropriately deal with the overall planning of environmental and social risks, and effectively safeguard the ecological and environmental safety.

IV) Carry out dynamic evaluation and comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of the pollution prevention and control battle. Strengthen monthly, quarterly, and thematic analysis of key issues, and track and analyze the impact of the epidemic on economic and social development and pollution prevention and control. Rely on the pollution prevention and control battle scheduling platform to make intensified deployment of the binding indicators and seven iconic battles, and closely track the ecological and environmental status and the completion of key tasks. Well conduct the comprehensive analysis of the economic development, policy effects and ecological and environmental situation during the work and production resumption process, timely follow up and negotiate about the existing problems and shortcomings, and promptly coordinate, guide and supervise the emerging problems that affect the fulfillment of the anti-pollution battle.

V) Make overall plans for the future and formulate upgraded strategies for pollution prevention and control. 2020 turns out the decider of the win of the battle against pollution, and the founder for smooth implementation of the 14th FYP planning. With a long way ahead to build a beautiful China, efforts to protect the ecology and environment cannot be slackened. Continuously improving the ecological and environmental quality is the main goal for ecological and environmental protection during the 14th FYP, and an inevitable requirement for the construction of a beautiful China. Therefore, we ought to long stick to the bottom line thinking, maintain the strategic determination, continue to formulate and promote initiatives to win the upgraded version of pollution prevention and control battles, work out more action plans for areas concerned by the people such as air, water, soil, rural area and oceans, and specify the pollution prevention and control route for key areas, thus making a good start for building a beautiful China with blue sky, clear water and pure land.

Environmental Protection: You mentioned just before that "2020 turns out the decider of the win of the battle against pollution, and the founder for smooth implementation of the 14th FYP planning" and we shall "Make overall plans for the future and formulate upgraded strategies for pollution prevention and control". Could you please picture for use the said "upgraded strategies for pollution prevention and control"?

Wang: The 13th FYP has been billed as a period when China secures the biggest achievement in improvement of ecological and environmental quality, embraces best results of its work, and wins high recognition of its people and the international community. But for now, no fundamental changes have taken place in China’s industrial structure, energy structure and transportation structure. The resource and environmental bearing capacity is close to and approaching the upper limit. No drastic changes have been brought to the high incidence of ecological and environmental risks accumulated. The ecological civilization construction and ecological and environmental protection remain the "short board" and "weakness" unchanged. There is still a big gap if compared with the goal to basically build a beautiful China in 2035, the ecological and environmental level developed countries have arrived at, and our own standards, regulations and laws concerning the environmental protection. The 14th FYP will lay foundation for the building of a beautiful China. While there's a long way to cover in its process, efforts for the ecological and environmental protection shall be maintained. We shall long stick to the bottom line thinking and strategic determination, keep the same direction and intensity, and continue to implement the upgraded pollution prevention and control action plan for the 14th FYP for key areas concerned by the people. Also, efforts shall be made to upgrade six aspects of the anti-pollution objectives, emission reduction paths, pollution control methods, policies and means, scientific and technological support, and governance system, and comprehensively propel the continuous improvement of the ecological and environmental quality the nation over, thereby laying foundation for basically building a beautiful China in 2035.

Upgrade the goals of the battles and continue to improve the ecological and environmental quality. The national eco-environmental quality improvement goals of the 12th FYP and the 13th FYP are basically historically dependent ones, which are basically attainable according to the existing environmental quality. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China set the goal to basically build a beautiful China and fundamentally improve the ecological and environmental quality in 2035. Therefore, for the upgraded version of the pollution prevention and control battle, the goals must be first upgraded to seek fundamental refinement of the ecological and environmental quality in 2035, promote the continuous improvement of the ecological and environmental quality during the 14th FYP, and attain comprehensive enhancement of the ecological and environmental quality by the 15th FYP. We shall upgrade and design the goals for refining the air, water and soil quality through the pollution prevention and control battle during the 14th FYP and make unremitting efforts to build a beautiful home centering on the goal to build a beautiful China with blue sky, clear water and pure land by 2035. Environmental quality indicators and standards that are inapplicable to China's current conditions and barely attainable even for developed countries shall be revised and modified in a quicker pace.

Upgrade the emission reduction paths and continue to strengthen the adjustment of the layout structure. The improvement in environmental quality achieved in recent years shall be chiefly ascribed to such palliative measures to strengthen the environmental law enforcement, pollution control, environmental infrastructure construction, and treatment of "scattered, illegal and pollution-intense enterprises. Acting measures to adjust industrial structure, optimize spatial layout, and improve utilization of resource and energy shall be long promoted. Tireless efforts are required to upgrade and promote the construction of green development mechanism, and secure the achievements scored through palliative measures and make further enhancement with the acting ones. The upgraded version of pollution reduction approaches shall focus on the green development to promote the adjustment and optimization of economic structure. It is necessary to accelerate the implementation of the "three lines and one list" - the ecological protection red line, environmental quality bottom line, resource utilization limit line, and ecological and environmental access list. It is imperative to optimize the energy structure, improve the clean utilization of energy, continue to curb the total coal consumption in key areas and replace scattered coal in the northern region, and expand the scope of clean heating in North China. We must continue to promote the clean production, circular economy, and resource utilization within the industries, and vigorously develop the green industries.

Upgrade pollution control methods and innovatively establish the "three pollution control" models. During the 14th FYP, the innovative "three pollution control models" for precise, scientific and legal fight against pollution shall be established to enhance the quality and efficacy of the ecological and environmental governance. We have to use scientific thinking and cutting-edge technological means, and follow scientific laws, as we seek to solve the complex environmental problems facing our country. We need to adhere to the concept of "a life community of mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes and grasses" to systematically promote the ecological expansion and pollution prevention. Specific treatment policies and methods shall be worked out for different fields and industries of different places around the nation. Pollution control in precise time, space and industry shall be spotlighted to uplift the pollution control effectiveness. Adhere to put the law as the criterion, and rule the country and tackle pollution by law. Fully protect the environmental rights and interests of relevant parties entrusted by the law, strengthen the law enforcement and supervision, and implement the environmental responsibilities of relevant entities.

Upgrade policies and measures, and strengthen the market economy incentive mechanism. Our ecological and environmental management has long been relying on mandatory control methods, i.e. regulations, standards and administrative intervention, and is accustomed to the "movement-style" law enforcement and supervision method. Our practice during the 12th and 13th FYPs has demonstrated that a good economic policy often plays a fundamental and essential role, such as the electricity cost subsidies for ultra-low emission of desulfurization and denitrification in power plant, and charges of urban sewage treatment. Under the conditions of the socialist market economy, policies and measures shall be innovated and upgraded to make more use of the market economic incentives to promote the pollution prevention and control. For the pollution prevention and control battle in the 14th FYP, it's recommended to study and formulate economic policies that have much to do with pollution prevention and control and ecological protection, such as including the tax on emission of VOCs and total phosphorus into the environmental protection tax, establishing the all-cost wastewater disposal charging system that covers the sludge treatment, giving tax preference and amortization incentive for ultra-low emission restructuring of key industries, promoting restoration of the polluted venue and industrial development integration EOD mode, supporting the value transformation and realization of ecological and environmental products, adjusting the fiscal "211 energy saving and environmental protection subjects" into the "211 ecological and environmental subjects", building and expanding the national and regional green development fund, and guiding the banking sector, particularly the policy oriented banks, to develop green credit policies.

Upgrade the technological support to improve the efficiency of pollution prevention and control. During the 13th FYP, both the central and local governments have significantly boosted technological involvement in pollution prevention and control, especially the battle to defend blue sky, clear water and pure land. The role of technology in the pollution prevention and control has been increasingly underlined, and both local governments and enterprises have embraced the benefits of the “one policy for one city", "one policy for one river" and "one policy for one enterprise" technological support. Meanwhile, scientific and technological support is also the basis for the "three pollution control" models. For the 14th FYP, it's proposed to continue increasing technological involvement in the ecological and environmental protection and pollution prevention and control. Scientific and technological strengths of the nation, local places and enterprises shall be put together to primarily integrate existing mature technologies and technical methods, upgrade the technical mode for ecological and environmental protection and governance of industrial and corporate pollution, and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of pollution prevention and control.

Upgrade the governance system and establish a joint governance system. The current ecological and environmental governance system is mainly composed of the Party committees, governments and enterprises, which bears a relatively cautious attitude towards public participation. During the 14th FYP, it's necessary to improve and upgrade the principles of the pollution prevention and control, and improve the joint governance system with multi-party participation. Transform the current environmental governance model led by the Party committee and government into a modern one as led by the Party committee, dominated by the government, supervised by the People's Congress, characterized by corporate pollution control, guaranteed by law, and participated by the public. On the basis of adhering to the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC and implementing the "same responsibility for Party and government, and two responsibilities for one post" initiative, we shall further deepen the corporate responsibility, accelerate the implementation of pollution permit management, improve the producer responsibility extension system, and strengthen the corporate responsibility for environmental governance. Better mobilize social organizations and the public to participate, improve the public supervision and reporting/feedback mechanisms, strengthen public opinion supervision, and give full play to the role of various social organizations and environmental protection volunteers. The ecological and environmental protection entails efforts of everyone. Every group and every member of the society must proactively practice the green and simple lifestyle, actively carry out activities such as waste classification, green consumption, and green travel, and act as participants and contributors to the ecological civilization construction instead of outsiders or critics.

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