According to a report on the national air quality by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, from January to December 2022, cities at and above the prefecture level saw 86.5 percent of days with air quality at moderate or good levels. The former level refers to an air quality index between 51 and 100 and therefore acceptable air quality; the latter to an index of 50 or below, with air pollution posing little or no risk. In 2012, that percentage stood at just 40.9.
As air quality improves, a host of new expressions have become all the rage—such as "low carbon," "reducing your transportation footprint," and "green is gold." People are also getting into the habit of, for example, turning off the lights when not using them or setting their air conditioning to no lower than 26 degrees Celsius—both resulting in lower electricity consumption. All in all, the concept of green development is gradually taking root.
China has achieved great economic results since the late 1970s, but the high-polluting and energy-intensive ways of economic growth also plunged the country into environmental disarray, even triggering public backlash. It was against this backdrop that the idea of green development budded, essentially marking China's need for an ecological revolution.
The concept can be understood in two ways. The first is about ecological protection and management. The Chinese Government has ordered the shutdown of high-polluting and energy-intensive companies or demanded they upgrade their technologies to official emission standards, reinforced by the announcement of ecological protection laws.
Similar undertakings over the past decade have already borne fruit, as exemplified by the decrease of smoggy days and continuously improving air quality.
The second is about economic development. China must go down the path of energy saving and environmental protection in its efforts to further develop its economy. By no means should the country sacrifice its ecological environment for temporary economic growth.
The Communist Party of China has, on multiple occasions, publicly declared it intends to meet the people's aspirations for a better life. From the public's perspective, having a sound ecological environment is a vital component of a good life. Under the guidance of the green development concept, a nationwide industrial structure based on saving natural resources and protecting the environment has gradually been taking shape in recent years. The targets of peaking carbon emissions and realizing carbon neutrality before 2030 and 2060, respectively, as well as the formation of a green building system, made up of six components—land efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource efficiency, environment quality and operational management, meanwhile, have helped further implement the concept. Today, the people's benefits are already tangible: cleaner air and drinking water, increased food safety, as well as a more comfortable and beautiful environment to live in.
The government work report was released at the First Session of the 14th National People's Congress, the highest state organ of power in China, on March 5, saying that in the past five years, China had established multiple green sectors and a circular economy, and encouraged the research on and development plus application of energy-saving and environmental protection technologies and products. According to the report, financial support for green development had been scaled up and many improvements had been realized to evaluate and, when necessary, adjust energy consumption targets.
On the global stage, then, China has played an active part in cooperation on addressing climate change, contributing its part to global climate governance.
Positive changes in China's ecological environment over the past few years have invalidated some arguments regarding the country's related policies, including "environmental protection will hinder economic growth" and, especially, "it'll be all talk but no action when it comes to environmental protection."
But perhaps we should clear the air here: The reality is that the Chinese Government intends to not only meet the people's demand for a better life in terms of material possessions but also their requirements for a cleaner environment.
(Print Edition Title: Clearing the Air)
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org