China Pollution

Critic of unbridled growth tipped as new China environment minister

(March 4, 2013) Pan Yue, a popular, outspoken and confrontational environmental official is reportedly a front-runner to become China’s new environment minister. Nicknamed Hurricane Pan, a reference to the “environmental protection storms” Pan led as former vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, the appointment would represent a clear signal to citizens that their new government is serious about improving the country’s rivers and skylines and empowering its environmental protection bodies to take on vested interests, reports Reuters. Although, Pan’s fearless advocacy has hampered his career in the past, promoting someone viewed as a tiger tough on polluters and a critic of unbridled development could help to defuse the civil unrest that has rocked China in recent times, in large part provoked by a loss of faith in the nation’s growth miracle.

By David Stanway and Benjamin Kang Lim, Reuters

Pan Yue, a high-profile official with a history of taking on big state-owned interests, has emerged as the front-runner to become China’s new environment minister, sources said, amid growing public discontent over worsening pollution in the country.

Pan, a former journalist, is tipped to take over from career bureaucrat Zhou Shengxian when Premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang forms his new cabinet during the annual session of parliament which begins on Tuesday, three independent sources familiar with the matter said.

“A recommended list (of cabinet ministers) lists Pan Yue as the environmental protection minister. But this is not final and could change at the last minute,” a source with ties to the leadership told Reuters.

With China desperate to show it is determined to tackle its pollution problems, the appointment of the popular Pan would help build confidence in the country’s environmental protection bodies and their ability to rein in some of the country’s most powerful industrial interests.

Public anger over air pollution that blanketed many northern cities in January has spread to online appeals for Beijing to clean up water supplies as well. Across the country, to the government’s alarm, social unrest spurred by environmental complaints has become increasingly common.

Pan has routinely criticized China’s excessive focus on growth and the weakness of its environmental watchdogs, saying the country’s obsession with economic expansion had created a massive “environmental overdraft”.

But the 53-year-old has paid the price before for his outspoken comments.

Also, the environment ministry still faces formidable odds in the face of China’s complex bureaucracy and weak enforcement of laws. It lacks the authority to take on big state-owned enterprises, including oil firms, and local governments.

“If Pan Yue is appointed minister, it would give real credibility to (incoming President) Xi (Jinping)’s message about wanting people who get results and don’t just talk,” said Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has studied China’s environmental problems.

Parliament spokeswoman Fu Ying said on Monday that the largely rubber stamp legislature would tighten two environment laws during its annual session by linking protection efforts with local government performance evaluations and further reining in emissions.

This article continues in full at the publisher’s website.

Related Reading on Pan Yue from Probe’s archives

Watchdog Pan Yue calls for environment renewal
“Before I joined SEPA, I thought that China could be a world factory, that China could afford to pollute its environment until it is rich enough to clear it up. But now I have changed my ideas. China simply could not do this.” ~ Pan Yue, May 2007

At the centre of China’s environmental storm: Interview with ‘Hurricane Pan
“In the past three years, I’ve been saddened by what I’ve seen — companies that bend the rules and try every means possible to delay compliance with environmental legislation; new highly-polluting projects that break the law and bend the rules in the name of ‘not allowing the state to suffer losses.’ But I don’t allow myself to indulge in feelings of hopelessness. I believe that we can create new approaches and methods in the space provided by the legal and institutional systems now in place. The current situation should not be used as an excuse for accomplishing nothing, but simply seen as the conditions under which we can do our job and go forward.” ~ Pan Yue, January 2007

‘People power’ aids green drive in China
Painting a dismal picture of its pollution woes, Deputy Environment Minister Pan Yue said in an interview: “Acid rain is falling on one-third of China, half of the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless, while one-fourth of our citizens do not have access to clean drinking water. One-third of the urban population is breathing polluted air, and less than 20 per cent of the trash in cities is processed in an environmentally sustainable manner. If there is a silver lining, it is that the Chinese government knows the situation is dire, as do a rising number of environmentally conscious people and groups.” ~ Pan Yue, September 2002

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1 reply »

  1. Dear Probe,

    It sounds as though you guys like the new Environment Minister. Your quote of “A recommended list (of cabinet ministers) lists Pan Yue as the environmental protection minister. But this is not final and could change at the last minute, a source with ties to the leadership told Reuters.” suggests that maybe we can help install Pan Yue. What ideas do you have in this regard?

    Bob

    On Thu, 14 Mar 2013 22:01:22 +0000

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