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China's Green Development in the New Era

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-01-20 07:33
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V. Eco-Friendly Living Becomes the Prevailing Ethos

Green development requires everyone's efforts, and each of us can promote and practice green living. China actively promotes the values and ideas of eco-environmental conservation, raises public awareness to conserve resources and protect the eco-environment, and advocates the practice of a simpler, greener, and low-carbon lifestyle, creating a conducive social atmosphere for jointly promoting green development.

1. Continuing progress towards raising conservation awareness

China places particular emphasis on cultivating its citizens' conservation awareness. It organizes systematic publicity and other awareness-raising activities in this regard, and advocates a social environment and lifestyle of diligence and frugality. Publicity activities themed on National Energy-Saving Publicity Week, China's Water Week, National Urban Water-Saving Week, National Low-Carbon Day, National Tree-Planting Day, World Environment Day, the International Day for Biological Diversity, and Earth Day, are organized on a regular basis to encourage and persuade the whole of society to engage in green development activities. The idea of eco-friendly living has become widely accepted in families, communities, factories, and rural areas. Material on green development has been incorporated into China's national education system through compiling textbooks on eco-environmental conservation and carrying out education in primary and secondary schools on the condition of national resources including forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes, land, water and grain. Respect for and love of nature have been advocated. Environmental Code of Conduct for Citizens (for Trial Implementation) was published to guide the public to follow a green lifestyle. As a result, a culture of ecological and environmental protection has joined the mainstream and been cherished by all.

2. Widespread initiatives to promote eco-friendly lifestyles

China has launched initiatives to promote the building of resource-conserving Party and government offices, and develop eco-friendly families, schools, communities, transport services, shopping malls, and buildings, popularizing eco-friendly habits in all areas including clothing, food, housing, transport, and tourism. To date, 70 percent of Party and government offices at and above county level are now committed to resource conservation, almost 100 colleges and universities have realized smart monitoring of water and electricity consumption, 109 cities have participated in green transport and commutes initiatives. Household waste sorting has been widely promoted in cities at or above prefecture level. Much progress is being made as residents gradually adopt the habit of sorting their waste. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Food Waste has been enacted, and initiatives launched to promote food saving and curb food waste including a "clean plate" campaign on a large scale, which have yielded remarkable results as more people are saving food.

3. Growing market of green products

China has actively promoted energy-saving and low-carbon products such as new-energy vehicles and energy-efficient household appliances. It has provided tax reductions or exemptions and government subsidies for new-energy vehicles and continued to improve charging infrastructure. As a result, the sales of new-energy vehicles have rapidly risen from 13,000 in 2012 to 3.52 million in 2021. For the seven years since 2015, China has ranked first in the world in the production and sales of new-energy vehicles. In addition, China has steadily improved the certification and promotion system for green products and the green government procurement system, implemented an energy efficiency and water efficiency labeling system to encourage the consumption of green products. It has promoted the construction of green infrastructure in the circulation sector such as green shopping malls, and supported new business models such as the sharing economy and second-hand transactions. There is a richer variety of green products and a growing number of people who spend on green products.

VI. Improving the Institutions and Mechanisms for Green Development

Sound institutions and mechanisms are essential to green development.With this understanding, China has stepped up efforts to create an eco-environmental conservation system based on clear orientation, sound decision-making, effective implementation, and strong incentives, and continued to improve government performance in promoting green development. This provides a solid guarantee for the realization of the country's green development goals.

1. Strengthening the rule of law

China is committed to the rule of law in pursuing progress in eco-environmental conservation. It has written into its Constitution eco-environmental improvement and conservation, and promulgated and/or revised laws such as the Yangtze River Protection Law, the Yellow River Protection Law, the Land Administration Law, the Forest Law, the Grassland Law, the Wetland Protection Law, the Environmental Protection Law, the Law on Environmental Protection Tax, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution, and the Nuclear Safety Law. A legal system for eco-environmental conservation that covers all key areas, all types of resources, and all environmental factors has taken shape. China has also made consistent efforts to refine green development standards for key areas — more than 3,000 such standards have been formulated or amended.

To better investigate and strictly punish violations of laws and regulations concerning natural resources and the eco-environment, China has reformed the system that places the monitoring, supervision, and law enforcement activities of environmental protection bodies below the provincial level under the leadership of the same type of bodies at the immediate higher level. To strengthen coordination between the criminal justice system and law enforcement by government departments, China has established a system for procuratorates, courts, public security organs, and government departments responsible for coordinated law enforcement for environmental protection, enabling them to share relevant information, issue case briefings, and transfer cases among them.This has built a strong synergy for the investigation and punishment of environmental crimes, and provided powerful legal safeguards for green development.

2. Tightening supervision and management

China has improved the performance evaluation system for green development, and taken strict measures to ensure that enterprises fulfill their principal responsibilities and that the government performs the duty of supervision in pursuing green development. GDP growth is no longer the sole criterion for the assessment of the development of regions or the performance of officials. Instead, binding targets concerning resources and the environment are set for economic and social development, and a more balanced assessment system for economic and social development is in progress — one that measures the use of resources, energy consumption, environmental damage, and the eco-environmental impact. This allows assessment to play its full guiding role in promoting green development.

China has put in place an accountability system for leading officials, and formulated and/or revised a number of CPC regulations, including the Measures for Holding Leading Officials of the Party and the Government Accountable for Environmental Damage (for Trial Implementation), the Regulations on Central Environmental Inspections, and the Regulations on the Auditing of Natural Resource Assets for Leading Officials at the End of Their Tenures (for Trial Implementation). These are designed to ensure that Party committees and governments assume equal responsibilities for environmental protection, that leading officials perform their environmental protection responsibilities with diligence, in addition to their other prescribed duties, and that they are held accountable when they fail to do so. China mandates end-of-tenure auditing of natural resource assets for leading officials, and imposes lifelong accountability for environmental damage. By implementing the central environmental inspection system, China has ensured that all parties concerned truly fulfill their responsibilities for environmental protection, and has solved many environmental issues of pressing public concern.

3. Improving market-based mechanisms

China is creating institutions and mechanisms for green development through which the government provides strong guidance, enterprises are fully engaged, and the market plays an effective role, thereby generating society-wide enthusiasm and participation. It has introduced new measures to improve the pricing mechanisms in key areas such as water and energy saving, sewage and waste treatment, and air pollution control, adopted more than 50 preferential policies to cut taxes and fees, encouraged better resource allocation, and supported conservation and efficient use of resources to advance green development. China has enforced a unified registration system for ownership of natural resources and an eco-environmental conservation compensation system that covers forests, grasslands, wetlands, deserts, water bodies and farmland. It is working on mechanisms for realizing the market value of ecosystem goods and services. China also encourages and supports private investment in environmental conservation and rehabilitation.

Panel 7 Compensation System for Eco-Environmental Conservation

China has taken active steps to improve its compensation system for eco-environmental conservation, and continued to increase fiscal support for this compensation in key areas. Interregional cooperation has been steadily expanded, and new progress has been made in establishing market-based compensation mechanisms.

China has improved the mechanism for fiscal compensation from higher-level to lower-level governments. Governments are required to play the leading role in ensuring that all parties concerned fulfill their responsibilities for environmental protection. A compensation mechanism has been established for the conservation of key ecological systems including forests and grasslands. More support is provided to main players in eco-environmental conservation. The mechanism for compensation and transfer payments to key functional zones now covers more than 800 counties across the country.

China has strengthened interregional cooperation in compensation for ecoenvironmental conservation. Policies have been introduced to support transregional compensation mechanisms in the Yangtze River and Yellow River basins.Guidelines were formulated on compensation in the Dongting Lake, Poyang Lake and Taihu Lake basins. To encourage closer ties between the regions which carry out eco-environmental conservation and those regions which benefit from these endeavors, and between the regions located in the upper reaches of a river and those in the lower reaches, China has initiated a compensatory relationship for pollution control and cooperation on industrial projects. As of the end of 2021, 14 cross-provincial compensation mechanisms had been established for eco-environmental conservation across river basins.

China has adopted creative measures to develop market-based compensation mechanisms. By leveraging the roles of both the government and the market, China encourages and guides all stake-holders to participate in compensation systems, so as to open up more financing channels. It has continuously improved its systems for carbon emissions, pollutant discharge, and water use permits, and refined its policies concerning green finance, green labelling, and green buildings in support of green industries.

On the base of a reasonable ceiling for total consumption, China has established initial allocation and trading systems for water, energy, pollution, and carbon permits. With the opening of the national carbon emissions trading market and trials in green electricity trading, progress is being made in allowing the market to play a fundamental role in the allocation of eco-environmental resources.

In order to boost green finance, China has developed a multi-level market and a portfolio of green financial products, such as green credit, green bonds, green insurance, green funds, and green trust. At the end of 2021 China's green loan balance in RMB and foreign currencies stood at RMB15.9 trillion, and its outstanding green bonds at RMB1.1 trillion, both ranking among the largest in the world.

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