More than 8,000 Chinese enterprises have been penalized for pollution offences in the first eight months of this year but the vice director of China's environmental watchdog believes the results are "far below" the expectations of the public.
Pan Yue, vice director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said that four large-scale investigations into polluters had been carried out from 2005 and offenders had been penalized, including the closure of 12 major projects that "seriously violated" environmental protection regulations.
"But, frankly speaking, progress in environmental protection after these investigations are far below people's expectations," he admitted.
Pan refused to be drawn on whether or not the government's "green credit policy" could be classified as a success or a failure.
The policy was introduced in July in which SEPA regularly hands over lists of heavy polluters to the People's Bank of China and the China Banking Regulatory Commission.
Based on the information, companies that fail to pass environmental assessments, or to implement China's environmental protection regulations, are disqualified from getting loans from any bank or financial institution.
"It is too early to say whether the green credit loan policy is successful or not," said Pan.
"China's environmental issues are very complicated and cannot be solved by one or two policies," he said.
There has been a shift in the style of punishments doled out by SEPA to polluters in recent years. Long-term restrictions designed to affect the way businesses operate are now favored over one-off fines.
"We used to resort to the traditional mode of administrative penalty to curb pollution, but such an approach has its own limitations such as it relies too much on the personal feelings of the regulation enforcers," he said.
"Now we have begun to use economic policies to protect environment and make them into a long-term system. Adopting economic polices to protect the environment is now the most effective approach to curbing environmental pollution in the international community and economic policies are easier to be institutionalized," he said.
"After introducing the economic policies, we will continue to amend environment-related laws and have a long-term mechanism to protect our environment," he said.
Pan called on the Ministry of Commerce, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission to cooperate in the formation of economic policies including, tax, insurance and security policies.
"With our joint efforts, we will try to work out several economic policies in one year, finish a pilot program of major economic polices in two years and primarily establish the economic policies mechanism to protect the environment in four years," he said.