BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) -- The State Council, China's cabinet, on Monday presented the nation's first-ever annual report on the environment to the top legislature.
The report will influence regulations and improve supervision of environmental work.
At its bi-monthly session, from Monday through Thursday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) began to review data on the environment and the status of environmental protection goals implemented last year, as required by the new Environmental Protection Law.
The law, which took effect in early 2015, ordered governments of county-level and above to report annually on their environmental conditions.
The review will help law enforcement, Tong Weidong, vice head of the Office for Administrative Law under the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission, told Xinhua.
It will also improve government and public awareness of environmental issues, Tong said, and aid supervision of government work.
For years, the top legislature has "placed equal emphasis" on environment legislation and supervision over law enforcement, to address serious pollution, achieve sustainable social and economic development, and better protect people's health, Tong said.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS IN 2015
China beat its annual target to cut the emissions of principal pollutants in 2015, and met all environmental targets set for 2011-2015 as scheduled, the report said.
Last year, emissions of chemical oxygen demand, sulfur dioxide, ammonia nitrogen and oxynitride dropped by 3.1 percent, 5.8 percent, 3.6 percent, and 10.9 percent respectively from the previous year, and by 12.9 percent, 18 percent, 13 percent and 18.6 percent from 2010 levels.
Forest coverage increased from 20.36 percent in 2010 to 21.66 percent in 2015, with the forest stock volume reaching 15.1 billion cubic meters.
The report attributed the progress to improved legislative work, strict law enforcement and supervision, increased funding, industrial restructuring as well as measures to reduce air, water and soil pollution.
Central government spending on energy conservation and environmental protection rose 13.9 percent year on year to 278.2 billion yuan (42.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, the report showed.
Despite the improvements, however, issues such as heavy pollution, ecosystem damage and high environmental risks remain, it was found.
Of 338 cities at the prefecture level and above, only 73, or 21.6 percent, met national clear air standards, according to the report.
The annual average PM2.5 and PM10 densities in those cities were 42.9 percent and 24.3 percent higher than the national limits. Meanwhile, ozone pollution has become increasingly prominent, it was noted.
It also highlighted serious water pollution in the Haihe, Huaihe, Liaohe and Yellow rivers, and soil contamination in the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the old industrial base in the country's northeast.
TREMENDOUS CHALLENGES AHEAD
China is now facing a grim situation in terms of environmental protection, with the bearing capacities of its resources and environment "reaching or nearing the upper limits," Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining said while presenting the report.
Serious pollution of the eco-environment, especially of air, water and soil, is "a prominent weak spot" in the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The people want environmental deterioration to stop, Chen said.
Meanwhile, China has yet to complete industrialization, urbanization and agricultural modernization; unsound industrial and energy structure can not be changed overnight, he said.
It was also noted that a failure to clearly define responsibilities in some regions, lax law enforcement and supervision, and inefficiency all added to the pressure and challenges facing China.
During the 2016-2020 period, China will pursue innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development, establish a rigorous environmental protection system, and try to win the war against air, water and soil pollution, he promised.
He also pledged commitment to reducing emissions of major pollutants, preventing and controlling environmental risks and improving environmental quality across the board.
To this end, China will proceed with the making and revision of related laws, and ensure strict and effective law enforcement, Chen added.