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Important step to clear the air

Updated: 2014-01-09 19:15

The evaluation, and possible punishment, of local officials who fail to control air pollution must be transparent to the public, says an article in the Southern Metropolis Daily. Excerpts below.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection signed a liability statement for air pollution control targets with 31 provincial governments.

Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province governments plan to cut air pollutants by 25 percent within a fixed period of time. To ensure the target is fulfilled, the ministry and relevant supervisory departments also introduced an accountability system to punish, or criticize, officials who fail to reach targets.

This is a big step by the central authorities to clear the air.

But the accountability system must be more specific and transparent to the public. The people and officials should know the punishment criterion and how exactly the accountability system works.

The central government vowed on different occasions to include environmental quality as an important criterion to assess local government officials’ performance. Wu Xiaoqing, vice-minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, also pointed out: “To tackle the pollution, we must deal with local officials first to change their work style.”

The serious overcapacity of polluting and energy-consuming industries in some places since the financial crisis in 2008 drives home the important role local officials play in shaping the industrial structure.

In fact, the central government has always been vigilant to the issue of overcapacity. But without a new official performance assessment system and an effective accountability system to deal with pollution, vigilance will not yield a concrete improvement in the local environment quality or the upgrading of the industrial structure.