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Environmental progress ‘highlight’ of development

Hou Liqiang
Updated: Jun 4,2019 8:49 AM     China Daily

China’s intensified efforts in environmental governance have proved to be an efficient impetus for the country’s high-quality development and officials will further promote reform to maximize results, the head of the country’s top environmental watchdog said.

Li Ganjie, minister of ecology and environment and also executive vice-chairman of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, made the remark on June 3 while addressing the opening of the council’s annual general meeting in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, which closes on June 4.

“Environmental governance has proved itself in China to be an important impetus for high quality economic development to strengthen ecological and environmental management in the new era,” Li said.

He said at least $16.6 billion was invested to treat polluted water in key urban areas in 2018.

The shift from coal to natural gas and electricity as heating sources in northern areas of China has also promoted investment.

In 2018, investment in ecological protection and environmental rehabilitation in China rose by 43 percent year-on-year, which is much higher than growth in many other sectors, Li said.

“The environmental protection sector’s contribution to economic development has increasingly grown and has become a highlight of China’s economic growth,” he said.

Li said the central government has always attached great importance to ecological progress and environmental protection. “President Xi Jinping came up with the philosophy that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets in his visit to Anji county in 2005, when he was Party secretary of Zhejiang province.”

In 2018, the average quality of surface water improved in China to or above Grade III, and surface water below Grade V, the lowest ranking, declined by 1.6 percentage points year-on-year, he said, adding that air and water quality have continued to improve this year.

He said the ministry has adopted 15 key measures to reform management of environmental protection to better facilitate high-quality development. Some of the measures are expected to make the examination and approval processes of environmental impact assessments more efficient.

The ministry will implement measures to promote green development in the private sector to improve the market access system, he said.

Vidar Helgesen, former Norwegian minister of climate and environment and vice-chairman of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, said China has a compelling ecological vision and an important goal of high-quality development.

Helgesen said it was encouraging to hear Xi endorse green financing concepts at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April.

Though the suggestions and guidance are voluntary, they have huge potential to support and broaden green solutions in China and globally if applied by State-owned banks and investors, he said.