A new pledge from the Chinese central government promises to reduce pollution, increase food and drug safety, and give further boosts to scientific research. Chinese premier Li Keqiang set those goals as well as other priorities, during the National People’s Congress opening session on Sunday. The policy discussions in congress are unlikely to yield specific legislation, but instead set overall goals for the country in the year ahead.
With regard to his call to support scientific research in China, Li said:
“Having reached the current stage of development, China can now advance only through reform and innovation,” adding that China has “the largest pool of scientists, engineers, and professionals in the world, and their potential for innovation is truly tremendous.”
In terms of his pollution goals, Li added: “Environmental pollution remains grave, and in particular, some areas are frequently hit by heavy smog.”
The premier outlined specific pollution targets such as a 3 percent reduction in PM2.5 particles, a class of very small pollution particles considered especially detrimental to human health. Li said the central government would also work to use cleaner heat sources in place of coal and natural gas, in 3 million Chinese households. He also outlined “a reduction of at least 3.4% in energy consumption per unit of GDP and continued reductions in the release of major pollutants.”
To step up enforcement of the reduction, he discussed thorough monitoring of pollution sources as well as a new push for industry to adopt clean coal technologies.
“We will strengthen research on the causes of smog to improve the scientific basis and precision of the steps taken,” he added.
Li also pledged to improve emergency control measures, like the 2015 color-coding system that automatically trigger restrictions limiting vehicle use and industrial emissions when faced with especially poor air quality. Measures like that one have had a limited but significant on China’s air pollution levels.
Li promised as well to set targets to limit soil and water pollution, including a 2 percent reduction in chemical oxygen demand in waterways and tighter controls to limit agricultural runoff.
Food and drug safety was also discussed, after ongoing problems in China with food safety and counterfeit drugs, sometimes causing health problems in countries where they were exported. Last month, the State Council outlined plans to institute more stringent controls on food and drugs, such as reduced thresholds for antibiotics and pesticides in food, instituted over the next 5 years.
The premier promised Sunday to “make our skies blue again,” in his speech to the legislature.