China has fulfilled seven of the nine pollution control targets it set for the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), but the country is still confronted with a "grim situation" and "arduous task" in environmental protection, said Huang Runqiu, minister of ecology and environment, on Monday in Beijing.
Still, the country will not relax its pollution control efforts amid pressure to aid an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Huang said on the sidelines of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress, the top legislature.
Overall emissions of some major pollutants across the country, including sulfur dioxide, have been reduced to below target levels, he said. China has also fulfilled its goals in reducing the density of PM2.5－fine particulate matter that causes smog－in major cities and improving surface water quality across the country, he said.
The country reduced PM2.5 concentrations in cities above the prefecture level that had missed reaching the national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The goal was to reduce the density of the pollutant by 18 percent between 2015 and 2020.
By the end of last year, that decrease had reached 23.1 percent, he said.
Meanwhile, the country has seen the quality of 74.9 percent of its surface water be classified at or above Grade III－the third-highest in the country's five-tier water quality system－which is 4.9 percentage points higher than the target for 2020, he added.
The proportion of water below the lowest level of Grade V in the country is expected to go down to less than 5 percent by the end of 2020. Monitoring shows, however, the proportion stood at 3.4 percent by the end of 2019.
While it's challenging to meet the other two targets－carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP and the ratio of days with fairly good air quality in major cities－"we are confident that we will complete it well", he said.
Huang said, however, that the turning point for ecological and environmental improvement in the country has yet to come. "We should be clear-minded on the grim situation and the arduous task the country faces in ecological and environmental protection," he said.
China still greatly depends on heavy and chemical industries in its industrial structure and greatly relies on coal for energy. Besides, environmental accidents occur frequently, he said.
The minister added that China will stick to the green development path. "We will not lower requirements on ecological and environmental protection in face of the difficulties. Nor will we loosen environmental supervision and thresholds," he said.