In recent years, rapid industrialisation, intensified agricultural production and urbanisation in the People's Republic of China has brought greater prosperity and higher living standards to many, but it has also created high demand for energy and raw materials, increased pressure on ecosystems and affected health outcomes.
China is committed to achieving a green economy. The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) aimed to increase consumption of renewable energy sources. Total investment in treating environmental pollution increased 15% annually and environmental investment reached 1.33% of GDP by 2009.
In parallel, China also reformed environmental management institutions by granting the public open access to environmental information, establishing the National Leadership Committee on Climate Change, Energy Saving and Pollution Reduction, giving teeth to energy efficiency and pollution reduction targets, encouraging the adoption of measures by local governments to pursue environmental excellence, and adopting market mechanisms for pollution reduction.
In the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the seven major targets for 2015 are reducing pollutant emissions; improving drinking water sources and quality; controlling pollution caused by hazardous chemicals and dangerous wastes; improving urban environmental infrastructure operations; reversing ecological deterioration; improving nuclear safety; and enhancing environmental regulatory institutions. Environmental goals include reducing carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 17% and energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16%, as well as increasing forest coverage to 21.66%.
The government intends to strengthen prevention and control of environmental risks and improve environmental public services. The Plan states that “the central government will provide increased financial support, through measures as general fiscal transfers and ecological compensation, to improve environmental public services in western regions, areas prohibited or restricted for development and other disadvantaged areas. Local governments at all levels should guarantee expenditure on environmental public services”.
To support environmental protection, the Plan calls for environmental tax reform and improving the waste disposal fee system. The government will establish a credit rating system for enterprises’ environmental behaviours, build a green rating system in banks, and explore mechanisms for earmarked funds for national ecological compensation. Investment of around RMB 3.4 trillion will be needed for environmental protection.
The Plan also requires local governments to integrate environmental protection objectives into local economic and social development plans and report on implementation in the evaluation of local government officials. “By the end of 2013 and end of 2015, mid-term evaluation report and final evaluation report on implementation shall be submitted to the State Council, with evaluation results open to the public”.