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Environmental indicators given more weight than GDP in official performance assessments

Updated: Feb 22,2017 4:43 PM     People’s Daily Online

The Chinese government will devote more effort in 2017 to implementing assessment measures that focus more on the environment than economic growth, according to China’s top economic planner.

Under the new measures, officials’ performances will be judged based on environment-related indicators, including resources utilization, environment quality, ecological protection, green lifestyle and public satisfaction, said Zhao Chenxin, spokesperson for the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

This is the first time in the history of the People’s Republic of China that environment protection has carried more weight than economic development in the assessment of officials.

According to the Green Development Index System, which is a part of the mechanism released last December, the economic growth category carries a weighted value of 9.2 percent — much less than the value of environmental categories.

As early as 2011, many places in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region had consciously started giving higher priority to environmental protection, while also reducing the emphasis on economic growth.

In 2011, the Bortala Mongol autonomous prefecture ordered Wenquan county to stop using GDP as an indicator when assessing officials. The county then integrated and restructured its nonferrous metal industry, shut down ineligible plants and banned unrestricted mining.

While weakening and in some cases even eliminating the economic growth indicator, Xinjiang has also carried out a pilot project to lower economic growth targets in impoverished counties. In 2010, the GDP target of Yumin, a poor county, was proactively lowered to pave way for environmental protection and a “green economy.” That year, the industrial added value of Yumin dropped from 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) to 60 million yuan ($8.72 million).

To further promote antipollution efforts, the Ministry of Water Resources recently established a system cataloging the performance evaluations of officials. The ministry will supervise and investigate implementation of the system later this year and into 2018.

Since 2016, the Ministry of Environment has been interviewing government heads about poor air quality. Last April, it interviewed officials from Changzhi in Shanxi province, Anqing in Anhui province, Jining in Shandong province, Shangqiu in Henan province and Xianyang in Shaanxi province over rising levels of pollutants and violations of environmental laws.

Data released by the ministry shows that as of Dec 5, 2016, a total of 295 companies had been registered and disciplined for environmental offenses. Eighteen people were detained and 275 people were interviewed.

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