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New guideline issued for eco-friendly development

China has made yet another move to improve its environment. The State Council published a guideline on May 5, stressing the need to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic growth.

The guideline called for more economical and efficient use of resources. By 2020, Beijing aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 to 45 percent from the 2005 level, and increase the share of non-fossil fuels, in primary energy consumption, to around 15 percent, according to the guideline.

Other targets include a steady improvement in water and soil quality, forestry and wetland coverage. The guideline also stressed efforts to promote green urbanization and strengthen the protection for ocean resources. Critically, the guideline introduced the “bottom line” notion for the first time, stating that China’s ecosystem can only change for the better, not worse.

“The problem of environmental resources has become a bottleneck, a short stave in building a well-off society in an all-around way. It cannot be avoided, or circumvented, or faced with any degree of restraint. We will establish a ‘red-line’ of control, overseeing three aspects including resources, environment, and the ecosystem. Three lines will be drawn: a ceiling for resource development, a bottom line for environmental quality — it can only be better, not worse — and a red line for the protection of the ecosystem to stem the worsening situation,” Xu Shaoshi, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said.

Decades of breakneck growth in China have dried up resources and left the country saddled with problems including smog and contaminated waterways.

According to data released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, only 74 major cities monitored in 2014 met the national standard for clean air. Another report released in June 2014 revealed some 60 percent of ground water monitored was rated as “bad” or “very bad”.

In his annual government report in March, Premier Li Keqiang pledged to take “a firm and unrelenting approach to ensure blue skies, clean waters, and sustainable development”. The announcement of the new guideline is but the latest in a string of actions taken by the Chinese government in the war against pollution ... and analysts are expecting more detailed regulations to follow.