En­vi­ron­men­tal tar­gets set bot­tom line for lo­cal of­fi­cials

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - 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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