Business / Economy

Slower economy 'won't deter anti-pollution efforts'

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-03-12 09:33

China will not pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment despite the slowing economy, Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining said at a news conference on Friday.

The country will continue to restructure its economy away from heavily polluting companies to create more room for "good companies", Chen said, to develop and focus on technological innovation.

However, he pointed to the need to rein in local governments, some of which are leery of enforcing environmental laws in favor of boosting economic growth in their areas.

"We need to hold local governments accountable," said Chen.

"Only if we hold them accountable for environmental responsibilities will the enterprises be more law-abiding."

Last year, China's economic growth slowed to a 25-year low of 6.9 percent. This year, authorities have set a 6.5 to 7 percent growth target.

In recent years, the central government has changed its tack as it moves away from an economy dependent on heavy industry to a more sustainable one based on domestic consumption and services.

Simultaneously, residents have become more concerned about environmental pollution.

"What is development? We used to equate it with GDP and production," said Chen.

"We have come to believe that nature is valuable and priceless. We have abandoned the former idea of separating development with environmental protection but rather believe the two elements can be unified and balanced."

Authorities have revised the economic development model to pursue not only "economic quality, but also environmental quality," Chen said at a news conference during an annual meeting of the legislature.

"Only when those polluters bow out of the market will it be possible to set aside some development space for good companies to focus on innovation and improving product quality, and to avoid the phenomenon of 'bad money driving out good' in our development," he said.

The central government is refocusing the economy on services and long-term efforts and cutting back on overcapacity in industries including coal and steel, which will help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Chen said that a new team under his ministry has begun moving from province to province this year to hold local governments accountable for environmental protection and addressing "the harm of local protectionism."

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