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Environmental targets set bottom line for local officials

China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-08 07:18

Environmental targets set bottom line for local officials

Smoke rises from a chimneys of a steel mill on a hazy day in Fengnan district of Tangshan, Hebei province February 18, 2014.[Photo/Agencies]

ON MONDAY, the 13th Five-Year Plan for Ecological and Environmental Protection (2016-20) was officially released, which listed eight new legally binding targets. This is an important move that will make the plan more effective, says Beijing Youth Daily:

Anybody who has read the plan will immediately realize how strict it is. Besides the four existing targets with legally binding force, it has introduced eight more, covering the air, water, and the earth.

The introduction of the eight targets is rather important because it makes clear the responsibility of local officials. Many local enterprises pollute the environment but the local economy relies upon them for growth; the process of fighting pollution might thus curb local GDP growth, which would reflect badly on the performance of leading officials. Only targets with legally binding force will be effective in prompting local officials to truly fight pollution.

The eight new targets have obviously been made after careful deliberation, because they are neither too high nor too low-78.4 percent of all cities nationwide will need to improve their air quality and many cities need to improve the standard of their drinking water.

The targets set a bottom line for the ecological environment, which cannot be challenged.

Although the eight targets are not easy to reach, for example, the plan requires cities beyond the prefecture-level to lower their PM2.5 density by 18 percent, and raise the percentage of days with good air quality so that they account for over 80 percent of the total. The targets can be realized if a local government works hard, so they give leading local officials achievable targets for good performance evaluations.

Of course, a good regulation is only effective if it is well implemented. There have been instances of local officials fabricating data to cheat environmental inspectors, and they must prevent this in implementing the plan.

That in turn requires the higher authorities to send more environmental inspection teams to supervise local officials, so that they do not dare to falsify the data. More importantly, the process of fighting pollution should be made more transparent, and the public be given a bigger say in it, so that local officials cannot possibly cheat.

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