China / Society

New regulation boosts clean air campaign: experts

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-05-28 21:17

BEIJING - A new regulation that links officials' careers with their work to improve air quality has been hailed as a boost to the country's efforts to fight pollution and ensure clean air.

The State Council, China's cabinet, on Tuesday issued a regulation on assessing local governments' performances in implementing a government action plan on air pollution control.

In the plan, launched in September 2013, the government aims to cut the density of inhalable particulate matter by at least 10 percent in major cities nationwide by 2017.

Tuesday's regulation said local governments and their leading officials will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan and performances in this regard will be considered as an important gauge in the assessment of the governments and officials.

Zhai Qing, vice minister of environmental protection, said the new regulation should help bring about a shift in how local governments manage environmental concerns.

After several bouts of smog in many Chinese regions over the last year, this explicit placing of responsibility on local governments has indicated China's increasing attention to the environment and its resolve to handle pollution, said Ding Yuanzhu, a public administration expert with the Chinese Academy of Governance.

It is also a response to people's concerns, as bad air is among the most obvious environmental problems affecting the public, Ding said.

Environmental protection is a long-term commitment while a local leader's tenure is short, but the new rules will push officials as a whole to care more about local development in the long run, said Sun Xiaoli, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Sun said the regulation will influence officials' future decision-making as they will be more cautious in approving projects with foreseeable environmental risks.

That will also help in the country's efforts in industrial restructuring and transforming its development pattern, she added.

Zhai said the new rules will also encourage the optimization of the energy industry and energy consumption.

Moreover, according to the vice minister, as the leading officials have now been given responsibility for environmental protection, more government departments at local levels, in addition to environmental authorities, will become involved to make coordinated moves in pollution control.

Sun said the regulation also revealed China's deepening efforts to secure scientific development.

"China is working to break with the previous growth pattern driven by GDP obsession and pursue a more balanced and comprehensive development," she noted.

China last year issued a document promising to shift away from GDP-obsessed assessments of local governments as the nation attempts to bring its economy onto a more sustainable track.

The document ordered local governments to abandon the mode of "high investment and heavy pollution for fast growth" and set more evaluation criteria related to resources, the environment, scientific innovation, employment, income, health and social insurance.

Last year's action plan on air pollution control said PM 2.5, a key indicator of air pollution, should fall by about 25 percent from 2012 levels in Beijing and surrounding provincial areas by 2017, while the Yangtze Delta and the Pearl River Delta regions must see reductions of 20 and 15 percent respectively.

According to Tuesday's regulation, provincial governments will be assessed annually in terms of implementing this plan, and chief officials who have failed the assessment will be questioned by Party and governmental agencies, or even the premier.

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