Guidelines promote greener China

Updated: Mar 21, 2024 By LI MENGHAN China Daily Print
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People watch wintering whooper swans at Yuncheng Salt Lake, a wetland area in the Yellow River Basin, in Yuncheng, Shanxi province. [Photo by Yan Xin/For China Daily]

China has unveiled guidelines to strengthen environmental management by tailoring regulations to specific regions, a move experts say marks a significant step toward institutionalizing environmental protection.

The guidelines, issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council this month, clarify objectives and priorities for region-specific environmental management, according to Liu Yi, a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Environment.

"This signifies a shift from pilot programs to nationwide implementation and now the establishment of a comprehensive institutional framework," Liu said.

Previously, China had released plans for zoning environmental and ecological factors like water, air, soil and noise. However, a lack of a unified national system hampered coordination, Liu said.

The new guidelines break down the distinction between developmental and environmental functions for land use. They propose enforcing "red lines" for ecosystem and environmental protection, as well as for rational resource utilization.

The land will be divided into three categories: priority protection, critical control and general control. Each category will have tailored management strategies based on specific environmental conditions and risks.

"This division considers ecological and environmental factors, administrative boundaries and spatial planning," said Wan Jun, deputy dean of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment's Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning.

Priority protection will encompass crucial areas like natural reserves, water source zones and wetlands. Critical control will target regions facing conflicts between development and environmental protection, such as areas with high resource consumption, pollution and degradation.

The scale of these areas will be adjusted to local circumstances, Wan said. Densely populated and industrialized eastern regions may have areas defined by streets or industrial parks, while vast western regions can adopt broader delineations.

"Tailoring the scale optimizes management resources and efficiency," Wan explained.

The guidelines also propose differentiated environmental access lists for different categories. This, according to Wan, allows for sustainable development and supports national development strategies.

"These lists establish perimeters for green development, fostering a spatial arrangement, industrial framework and manufacturing approach that prioritizes resource conservation and environmental protection," Liu said. "This ultimately facilitates high-quality development."

The system for region-specific environmental management is expected to be established by next year and be fully operational by 2035.

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