context: National Environmental Conference has been held seven times over the past 38 years and mostly attended by premiers and vice-premiers. The fact that President Xi addressed the conference this year indicates that unprecedented state attention given to environmental protection will not abate. High-profile environmental policies and escalating enforcement, including the new action plan on air pollution, are expected over the next few months.

National Environmental Conference convened 18-19 May, setting the tone for a new environmental agenda. President Xi Jinping 习近平 delivered the keynote speech, reiterating the goal to ensure a ‘fundamental improvement’ in the environment by 2035, which will be achieved by

  • pushing for a ‘green development’ model that focuses on
    • readjusting energy and economic structures
    • integrating environmental concerns into spatial and industrial planning
    • fostering and expanding environmental protection, clean production and clean energy industries
    • advancing resource conservation and recycling
    • promoting green and low-carbon lifestyles
  • prioritising environmental issues affecting people’s well-being, including
    • significantly improving air quality and eliminating heavily polluting days
    • ensuring drinking water safety
    • cleaning up ‘black foul-smelling’ waters in cities
    • reducing key soil contaminants and controlling soil contamination risks
    • improving rural living environment
  • fending off environmental risks
  • improving environmental governance via
    • developing resource and environmental pricing mechanisms
    • supporting public-private partnership projects
    • putting forward strategies to mitigate climate change
    • setting up an official evaluation system that factors in environmental performance and holds officials accountable for environmental damages