The Chinese government always attaches great importance to environmental protection, adopting a series of major measures in promoting sustainable development. Since the turn of the 21st century, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council have been vigorously progressing sustainable development from both theoretical and practical perspectives with remarkable achievements.
In 2007, the Party’s 17th National Congress made political commitments to the world that China will undertake comprehensive, harmonious and ecologically civilized development. Five years later, at the 18th National Congress, the concept of ecological civilization was elevated as the national strategy. A comprehensive national plan for promoting ecological civilization, including both theoretical studies and practical activities, was outlined.
The Congress clearly stated that China must incorporate the idea of ecological civilization into all aspects of economic, political, cultural, and social progress. Actions and activities relating to China’s geographical space, industrial structures, modes of production and people’s living should all be conducive to conserving resources and protecting the environment so as to create a sound working and living environment for the Chinese people and make contributions to global ecological safety.
In 2013, the Chinese government resolutely declared “war” on pollution, just as it had for poverty eradication. It adhered to the principles of prevention first, supervision at source, control throughout the process and severe punishment for violations. It devoted itself, with grim resolution, to preventing and controlling air, water and soil pollution and successively formulated a series of action plans, including the Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution and the Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution. The Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution is about to be released.
Ecological civilization is a new concept in the development of human civilization. It refers to material, spiritual and organizational achievements in following objective laws of harmonious human, social and natural development. It is an ethical morality and ideology which realizes harmonious co-existence and sustainable development both among people and between them and nature and society, reflecting the progress of civilization. Introducing this concept enriches and deepens the theory of sustainable development, producing bold innovations and practices to evolve civilization to a higher level.
The essential requirement of ecological civilization is that nature must be respected, accommodated and protected. Green hills and clear water should be recognized as priceless treasures. The outdated view that man can conquer nature and ignore the bearing capacity of resources and the environment should be completely abandoned. Conscientious efforts should be made to live in harmony with nature, allowing for a new approach to modernization characterized by such co-existence.
By fostering a social atmosphere which applauds frugality and disparages wastefulness, the values of resource conservation and environmental protection should be highly recognized. Green lifestyles, including energy-conserving, low-carbon, and environmentally friendly consumption should be widely accepted.
China remains committed to the principles, and basic state policy, of conserving resources and protecting the environment and promoting its natural restoration with the understanding that environmental protection and economic development boost each other. For the sake of our environment it will promote green, circular, low-carbon development; preserving our geographical space; restructuring our industrial structure; and modifying the ways of production and changing people’s behavior. China continues to draw on reform, openness, and scientific innovation as fundamental driving forces, establishing a sound framework of institutions on ecological progress, and developing a long-term mechanism to ensure the progress of ecological civilization. China will stick to giving priority to cultivating ecological culture, incorporating ecological civilization into the core value system of the public by strengthening publicity and education.
Specifically, the target is to make breakthroughs in building a resource-saving and environmentally friendly society by 2020. By then, the mapping out and construction of the major functional development zones will be accomplished; the quality and efficiency of economic development will be markedly enhanced; ecological civilization will become a widely accepted value by the whole society; and the levels of ecological civilization will meet the requirements of building a prosperous society.
Major tasks shall be strictly executed for reaching these targets: reinforcing the positioning of the major functional zones; optimizing land space; promoting technological innovation and structural adjustment; improving the quality and efficiency of development; pushing forward resource saving and using recycling; changing the development mode; protecting ecosystems and the environment; and instituting rules and policies of ecological civilization in guiding, regulating and constraining all human interferences with nature.
2015 was the most progressive year in constructing ecological civilization, with quite a number of important measures enforced. After enacting the revised Environmental Protection Law, the Chinese government issued a series of regulations and policies such as “The Suggestions on Accelerating the Construction of Ecological Civilization” and the “Integrated Reform Plan for Promoting Ecological Civilization”. These clearly sketched the blueprints for constructing ecological civilization. In particular, the Report of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) for Economic and Social Development further outlined a comprehensive plan for promoting ecological civilization in the next five years. It laid down that it is necessary to firmly establish and earnestly implement the concept of seeking innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development and to adhere to the principles of developing the country and bringing benefit for all in an environmentally-friendly way.
It added that China should strive to improve the ecological environment, provide more high-quality ecological products; and foster an atmosphere that encourages resource-conserving and environmentally friendly modes for both development and social life, so as to realize the dream for a well-off, prosperous and beautiful China.
Since the year of 2000, especially after 2012, the Chinese government has strengthened its effort in promoting ecological civilization from both theoretical and practical perspectives and has achieved satisfactory results. The concepts of ecological civilization and sustainable development are deeply rooted in the Chinese people’s minds. With the implementation of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China (2011-2015), daily sewage treatment capacity rose by an additional 48 million tons in urban areas, to total 175 million tons.
Since 2010 the proportion of coal-fired power plants with desulfurization facilities rose from 82.6% to 96%, and those with denitration from 12.7% to 87%. Power generating capacity of 84 million kilowatts was transformed to Ultra Low Emission Coal-Fired Power Plants, and the coal burning facilities for another 81 million kilowatts are undergoing transformation. (The ultra-low emission control technology ensures low coal consumption and enhances the global competitiveness of China’s coal-fired power generation.) Targets for reducing emissions of chemical oxygen demand (COD), ammonia nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides were met ahead of schedule, and areas affected by acid rain were reduced to 1990s levels.
The international community applauded the Chinese measures and progress in promoting ecological civilization. In February 2013, UNEP’s 27th council meeting adopted a decision in promoting China’s ecological civilization.
In April 2014, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization founded a sub-committee on ecological civilization. Thanks to the active exploration and unremitting efforts by the Chinese people, China’s theoretical study and practical work on ecological civilization are being further recognized and supported by international communities.