Ecological evaluations urged

Updated: 2013-06-18 07:26

By Li Fusheng (China Daily)

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Adopting environmental criteria for evaluating the performance of local officials is the most immediate way to promote green development in China, said a senior expert.

Li Zuojun, deputy director of a research group under the State Council, said environmental protection and green growth should be measured to assess local governments.

"Only when we speed up the reform in the evaluative system can we reverse the trend of a deteriorating environment," Li said.

He said performance evaluations are mainly based on GDP growth, fiscal revenue and fixed-asset investment. Though environmental protection is included, much less weight is given to it, he added.

Li's remarks echo President Xi Jinping, who said "we should never chase temporary economic growth at the cost of the environment" in late May at the sixth group study on ecological development organized by the Political Bureau of Communist Party of China.

"Xi's stance on this issue is stronger than ever, making it clear that environmental protection is now a priority over economic growth," he said.

To follow Xi's directive, local agencies need to transform the way they function, he said.

"Currently, local authorities are mainly busy with economic work, and this will definitely put a lot of pressure on our resources and environment."

Li said officials should be more concerned with social governance and environmental protection. He also said they should allow the market to play a bigger role.

"The market is relatively fair and more efficient, so we should make greater efforts to introduce such mechanisms as carbon trading, pollution rights trading, resource pricing, as well as eco-compensation."

In addition, clarifying the rights and responsibilities of some central departments is another measure that can further environmental protection efforts, Li said.

He said there are now a lot of ministerial departments and commissions that are dealing with green or low-carbon development from different perspectives, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Land and Resources, and the State Forestry Administration.

"However, they might have overlapping rights and responsibilities. So we should make them clear by deepening institutional reform and thus enable those departments to play a more effective role."

Li also urged the formulation and improvement of laws and standards to facilitate the goal of green development.

"Based on current trends, we need legislation on natural preservation, carbon trading, and ecological progress," said Li."We should also improve laws on environmental protection, circular economy as well as cleaner production."

Li said the government should also consider how to implement "the strictest possible protection for farmland and systems for managing water resources and protecting the environment" mentioned in the report of the 18th Party Congress.

In addition, he added that it is also important for the government to promulgate policies that promote green and low-carbon development.

"Actually, the State Council is formulating relevant policies, including some that deal with air pollution and water treatment," Li said.

(China Daily 06/18/2013 page24)