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Ecological restoration big part of guideline

By Zhang Yue and Hu Yongqi | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-17 08:10

China will combine efforts in environmental protection and ecological restoration to ensure greener, more sustainable development, according to the country's newly approved guideline for environmental protection, part of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).

The guideline, released on Wednesday, was approved at the State Council's executive meeting, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday.

"We are committed to a development pathway that delivers economic progress and environmental improvements side by side," Li said.

Officials said the new guidelines also adhere to President Xi Jinping's guidance that protecting and improving the environment is tantamount to maintaining and developing productivity.

"We should stay committed to the basic State policy of conserving resources, protecting the environment like we protect our eyes, treating the environment like it is our lives," Xi has said.

China exceeded its goal in environment protection for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), with carbon intensity dropping by 20 percent, a major contribution to worldwide efforts against climate change, officials said.

The new guideline makes it clear that equally strong efforts are required both in environmental protection as well as ecological restoration, stressing efforts to restore nature while minimizing industrial disruptions to the environment, officials said.

The goal is to achieve a more environmentally friendly way of living, considerable reduction in major pollutant emissions and a sounder ecological system by 2020. Li has pointed out that a good environment is an indispensable part in improving people's living standards, officials said.

The guidelines say red lines will be drawn on emission controls, and the government will encourage the development of energy-efficient industries. It also gives priority to efforts to protect the quality of the air, water and soil in the next five years. Projects to control industrial pollutants will be implemented.

The government will also impose stricter and more comprehensive controls on heavy metals, hazardous waste and poisonous chemicals.

Institutional innovation and modern regulatory measures in environmental protection and ecological restoration are also required, according to the new guideline. Investment and participation from local governments as well as business communities will be welcomed and the government plans to offer them more diversified financing channels.

All measures are designed to improve the public's health and the sustainable use of resources, said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, a nonprofit organization in Beijing.

The guideline casts a greater focus on ecological restoration by controlling more types of pollutants than before, using a greater variety of methods, such as issuing pollution permits, Ma said.

"These measures will be helpful to provide clean air, water and unspoiled soil," Ma said, adding that the government should improve information disclosure and transparency, which will put polluters under a spotlight.

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