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Environmental protection to be highlighted in China’s ‘two sessions’

By  Liu Junguo  (People's Daily)    15:20, February 29, 2016

As more Chinese public called for blue sky, environmental protection and ecological civilization construction will continue to dominate the agendas of China’s upcoming “two sessions.” The topic also triggered wide attention in the sessions of local governments.

The annual session of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top national advisory body, will open on March 3, and the meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislative body, will begin on March 5.

In recent years, the Chinese public showed a decreasing tolerance of smog and environmental pollution. The pictures of “blue skies” posted on social media and the buzzwords like “APEC Blue” and “Parade Blue,” coined after anti-smog measures were taken during major Beijing events, reveal such trends.

“APEC Blue” pictures posted by a Web user on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site.

The photo was taken on September 3, 2015, when China held a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War in Tiananmen Square. (Photo: Li Ge from People’s Daily)

In December last year, Beijing issued a “red alert” for smog twice. School closures and driving restrictions across the city were triggered by the alert. For the sake of a cleaner sky, rules have been introduced in many cities to curb the traditional custom of lighting firecrackers during the Spring Festival.

Amid the growing concerns, many local governments, in their recently-concluded provincial “two sessions,” prioritized environmental protection and ecological civilization by launching detailed measures they will take from 2016 to 2020.

The central government also made great efforts in recent years to alleviate environmental woes. The new Environmental Protection Law that took effect in 2015 is one of such efforts.

The implementation of the new law, described as the toughest one in China’s history, boosts the public’s expectation for “blue sky.” The new law explicitly stipulates the obligation of all business and people to protect the environment. It also clarified the tough responsibility of local governments.

Chen Jining, head of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), said at a press conference that previous punishments against those business violating the rules are not tough enough, adding that tougher measures were introduced in the new law.

The law was strictly implemented last year. The MEP summoned 15 senior officials at city level for reluctance in environmental administration. It also worked with other departments to summon heads of local governments over the protection of the nature reserve zones.

As of the end of 2015, environmental authorities at all levels had issued punishments in 97,000 cases, collecting 4.25 billion yuan ($650 million) in fines, increasing 34% year-on-year.

As a focus of the Chinese government, the ecological civilization construction echoed with the public’s demands.

During the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China listed it as a priority in economic development by stating that China will work for sustainable development by giving priority to ecological progress.

Moreover, China’s “13th Five-Year Plan,” a roadmap for the nation's development from 2016 to 2020, also contains the phrase “green development.”

As a result, China’s devotion to the ecological civilization construction also wins worldwide praise.

Dan Dudek, vice president for Asia of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a US-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group, hailed Chinese leaders’ strong determination to cope with environmental woes.

It is extraordinary for the CPC to write the ecological civilization into the Constitution, Nirj Deva, chairman of the EU-China Friendship Group of the European Parliament told the People’s Daily.

A Japanese scholar added that thanks to the top priority given by the Chinese leaders to environment, China will soon embrace blue skies.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Bianji)

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