In the 40 years since the reform and opening up, China ’s economy has achieved unprecedented development, which has greatly improved the overall national strength and people ’s living standards, but at the same time, it has paid a high price for the ecological environment. Serious environmental pollution and ecological damage have given our residents health and well-being. Poses a serious threat.
Improving the quality of the ecological environment as soon as possible has become an urgent need of the people and an inevitable requirement for China to build a well-off society in an all-round way and build a "beautiful China."
With the intensification of ecological environmental protection, the deterioration of China's ecological environment has been contained to a certain extent, and it has raised the question of when decision-making departments will reach the turning point of ecological environment quality in China.
The judgment of "when the inflection point is reached" is directly related to the strategic deployment of the ecological protection of the 19th National Congress of the CPC and a "hundred-year strong country", as well as the social and economic costs of protecting the ecological environment in the future.
Although some studies have investigated and judged the inflection point of China's ecological environment quality, the connotation of the "inflection point of ecological environment quality" has not been clearly defined, and several conventional indicators in a certain field are often used as the basis for measuring the "inflection point of ecological environment quality". China has been ignored. The comprehensiveness, complexity, and severity of ecological and environmental problems often lead to conclusions that are optimistic, which is not conducive to the formulation of realistic ecological environmental protection strategies and goals in China.
A study of the inflection point of China's ecological environment quality, based on the redefinition of the connotation of the inflection point of the ecological environment quality, established an indicator system for the inflection point of the ecological environment quality and a predictive analysis framework, combining scenario simulation, trend extrapolation, and comparison with international experience and experts The combined method of consulting predicts the time node of the ecological environment quality inflection point in different fields in China.
Analysis framework of factors affecting the evolution of ecological environment quality
P = Population, A = Affluence, T = Technology
What factors will affect China's ecological environment in the future?
Impact of population size
Considering the impact of the two-child policy, China's total population will reach about 1.45 billion by 2030. With the increase of population, China's demand for energy, water, land resources and the discharge of urban living pollutants will increase significantly, and the pressure on the treatment of living pollutants will increase.
Impact of population urbanization
By 2030, the urbanization rate of China's resident population will increase from 58.5% in 2017 to about 70.0%, and the new urban population will be more than 200 million, which will further increase the consumption and demand for water and land resources, and sand, cement, and steel construction materials And bring sustained ecological and environmental pressure.
Impact of population migration
From 2000 to 2010, the total size of the inter-provincial migration in China was about 105 million people. In addition, China has a large floating population, with 244 million people in 2017. Where these floating populations go will directly affect the spatial pattern of China's ecological and environmental pressure in the future. The general trend is that population will further gather in key economic zones and urban agglomerations, which will bring greater ecological and environmental pressure to these areas.
According to the prediction of the World Bank, by 2030 China will become the world's largest economy and enter the ranks of high-income countries. In this process, whether the economy can smoothly realize transformation and upgrade determines the ecological environment pressure that China will bear in the future.
Fortunately, promoting the transformation and upgrading has received great attention from the Party Central Committee and the State Council. The Fifth Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China put forward the five development concepts of "innovation, coordination, greenness, openness, and sharing." The implementation of these concepts will help alleviate the pressure on the ecological environment brought by social and economic development.
China's economy is gradually shifting from a structure that is dominated by investment and industry, which is more dependent on external demand, to a structure that is dominated by consumption and services, and more dependent on domestic demand.
The proportion of the tertiary industry in GDP will continue to increase and gradually become a pillar industry for economic development. Industrialization has entered the late stage, the stage of rapid development of heavy chemical industry is nearing its end, and the output of some high energy-consuming and polluting industries is nearing its peak.
At the same time, a new round of industrial revolution featuring green, intelligence, and sharing is gaining momentum. China is an ideal place to realize the new round of industrial revolution. In general, the economic structure will shift in a direction that is conducive to reducing the pressure on the ecological environment.
The ecological environmental pressure brought by consumption will gradually increase. According to the Global Ecological Footprint Network (GFN) calculation, China's per capita ecological footprint increased from 1.95 global hectares in 2000 to 3.71 global hectares in 2014.
Although it is still lower than the average level of developed countries, it is 1.87 times the per capita ecological carrying capacity of China in 2014. Moreover, GFN accounting shows that most developed countries have entered a relatively slow growth or stable stage after their per capita ecological footprint exceeds at least 5.0 global hectares.
If the evolution of China's ecological footprint conforms to this law in the future, as the income increases, it will face a more severe ecological deficit.
The ecological and environmental impact of international trade cannot be ignored. Since 2013, China has become the world's largest trading nation. Behind the huge trade surplus lies a huge net export of environmental pollutants, ecological products and services. China's share in world trade may double by 2030, and imports and exports of hidden ecological products and services will continue to grow.
On the one hand, as the export structure shifts upstream of the value chain, it is expected that the proportion of products with high ecological impact in China's export products will decrease. On the other hand, with the tightening of domestic ecological protection policies and the growth of residents' consumption, China's dependence on imported foreign ecological products and services will increase, and it will also face increasingly serious green trade barriers.
At present, a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial reform is gestating and rising, which is expected to accelerate the green transformation of China's industry. While the new technological revolution promotes the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, it will form a number of emerging industries, realize the replacement of traditional industries, make the future industrial development appear dematerialized, and the ecological environment impact of unit value creation will be greatly reduced.
In the coming period, the evolution of China's ecological environment quality will also be affected by some historical issues, such as a large amount of mineral tailings, accumulated heavy metal and chemical pollution, some irreversible ecological degradation and loss of biodiversity.
Through the accumulation of these historical problems for a long time, the ecological and environmental risks brought by them may erupt one after another in the future, delaying the inflection point of China's ecological and environmental quality.
China's ecological environment is extremely sensitive to the response to global climate change. In the future, China's climate warming trend will further intensify, the frequency of extreme weather and climate events may increase, the uneven distribution of precipitation will become more obvious, and the range of arid regions may expand.
Such a strong climate change will have a greater impact on natural ecosystems, change the pattern, quality and service functions of ecosystems, and increase the risk of biodiversity loss.
A survey shows that the level of environmental awareness of youth groups in China is significantly higher than other groups. However, the young people's awareness of their role in environmental protection is relatively lacking, and their awareness of paying for environmental protection is still weak.
Therefore, the improvement of the public's awareness of the ecological environment in China in the future will be more reflected in the demand for a good ecological environment, but there is still a large gap between the awakening of true environmental awareness and the participation of the entire population in ecological environmental protection.
Institutional and political factors
Institutional and policy factors have a crucial impact on changes in the ecological environment, and determine how fast China can cross the inflection point of the quality of the ecological environment.
With the implementation of the national ecological civilization construction strategy and innovation-driven development strategy, and the construction and improvement of the ecological civilization's four pillars and eight pillars system, it will force the transformation of production methods and advances in production technology, and new energy technologies and green production methods are expected to accelerate the transformation. The trend of the deterioration of China's ecological environment has promoted China to cross the inflection point of ecological environment quality in advance.
Engineering and technical factors
Major ecological projects such as the "Natural Forest Resource Protection Project" and "Returning Cultivated Land to Forests and Grasslands" have been implemented since 2000, and have played an important role in improving the quality of ecosystems and improving service functions in China.
During the "Thirteenth Five-Year Plan" period, China will expand the return of farmland to forests and grasslands, and strengthen grassland protection; improve the natural forest protection system, comprehensively stop commercial logging of natural forests; implement ecological protection and restoration projects for landscaped forests and lakes, and build ecological security barriers. The implementation of these major ecological projects will help further improve the ecological quality of our country.
How will the quality of the ecological environment in different fields change?
When will the inflection point come?
Atmospheric environmental quality
China ’s conventional atmospheric environmental monitoring indicators such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are gradually improving. However, due to the lack of effective control measures for a long time, volatile organic pollutants (VOCs) pollution has not been significantly improved, and ozone pollution is still increasing.
Volatile organic pollutants contain more than 100 common compounds and involve hundreds of industries. The emission sources are many and scattered, and the fugitive emissions are serious. It is difficult to collect and process them in a concentrated manner, and emission reduction faces huge challenges.
Ozone has become another secondary pollutant that has plagued urban air quality after PM2.5. From 2013 to 2017, the ozone pollution in 74 cities monitored in the first phase of the implementation of the new standard has increased significantly. The generation of ozone is highly correlated with other air pollutants such as NOx and volatile organic pollutants. The reasons are complex, and the prevention and control is difficult. There is a risk of further deterioration in the future.
The prediction results show that the turning point of atmospheric environmental quality based on conventional monitoring indicators in China will appear in 2020-2025; however, if we want to achieve a satisfactory atmospheric environmental quality from the peak of pollution to the treatment, which can satisfy the public, it will reach 2030-2035. And the inflection point of quality taking into account new factors such as VOCs, ozone pollution and climate change will be delayed until around 2040.
Water environment quality
The discharge of conventional environmental pollutants such as chemical oxygen demand (COD) and ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) in China has entered a channel of continuous decline, accompanied by a steady increase in the percentage of cross-section water quality across the country that is better than Class III.
However, the water environment quality of lakes and wetlands is affected by the long water exchange cycle and the sediments and the historical accumulation of pollutants along the shore of the lake, and there is no continuous and obvious improvement trend. If we take into account some currently unmonitored and unmanaged new pollutants, such as persistent organic pollutants, antibiotics, microplastics, and endocrine disruptors, the quality of China's water environment will deteriorate further in the future.
This judgment is made for four reasons:
1. At present, some river basins in China have been seriously polluted by these new pollutants;
2. Insufficient research on these pollutants, lack of necessary basic data and cost-reducible emission reduction and treatment technologies;
3. These pollutants have not been taken seriously by the government and lack effective control measures;
4. These pollutants are difficult to degrade in the environment and are cumulative.
Taking all factors into consideration, it is expected that China's water environment quality inflection points based on conventional monitoring indicators, public perception and consideration of new factors will appear around 2025-2030, 2035-2040, and around 2050, respectively. Great efforts are needed to achieve a fundamental change in the quality of the water environment by 2035 and the goal of building a "beautiful China" by 2050.
Soil environmental quality
According to data from the 2014 National Soil Pollution Survey, the overall state of the soil environment in China is not optimistic, the quality of the soil environment in cultivated land is worrying, and the soil environment problems in abandoned industrial and mining areas are prominent.
With the rapid development of society and economy, various pollutants such as heavy metals, phthalates, antibiotics, radionuclides, and pathogenic bacteria still enter the soil environment in multiple forms, ways, and ways, which has caused the area of soil pollution in China to expand and the extent The increase and harm are intensifying, the soil environmental problems are characterized by diversity and compoundness, and the risk management and control are further increased.
At the same time, climate warming may cause some pollutants adsorbed by the soil to change from a fixed state to a free state and be released, aggravating soil environmental risks. Therefore, there is a risk of further deterioration of the soil environmental quality in China in the future.
Compared to the atmosphere and water environment, it is more difficult to achieve a turning point in soil environmental quality. It is expected that the inflection points of soil environmental quality based on conventional monitoring indicators, public perception, and consideration of new factors will appear around 2040, around 2050, and after 2050, respectively. Soil pollution will become a major bottleneck for China to build a century-old power and build a "beautiful China", and it is necessary to make good mid- and long-term pollution prevention and control deployment.
Rural environmental quality
At present, China's rural areas are facing serious environmental pollution problems. With the development of the rural economy, the per capita waste generation and waste composition in rural areas are getting closer to urban levels. At the same time, with the rapid development of farming and breeding in rural areas, the production of manure, livestock and poultry manure and crop straw has increased dramatically.
The rural environment is facing the coexistence of point source and non-point source, living and production, exogenous and endogenous pollution. Due to the scattered production and living in rural areas, centralized treatment of various pollutants is difficult and costly.
Although China has intensified its efforts to improve the rural environment in recent years, its governance capacity cannot keep up with the pace of destruction and the environment is still deteriorating. However, with the reduction of rural population and the increase in pollution prevention and control, the trend of rural environmental degradation will be expected to ease in the future.
Taking all factors into consideration, it is expected that the inflection points of rural environmental quality based on conventional monitoring indicators, public perception and consideration of new factors will appear around 2025-2030, 2030-2035, and around 2050, respectively.
Offshore environmental quality
The communiques on the state of China's marine environment over the years show that in recent years, the quality of the offshore water environment, as measured by conventional environmental monitoring indicators, has basically remained stable and is generally good.
However, the pollution of water environment in the near-shore sea areas, especially estuaries and bay areas, caused by land-based sewage is still serious. As land-based emissions decrease, these conventional pollution will slow down. However, due to the lack of effective control measures, the pollution of some new pollutants will increase.
Studies have shown that the concentrations of organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and antibiotics in China ’s coastal waters are significantly higher than those in other countries and regions; the concentrations of endocrine disruptors and microplastics are flat or lower than those in other regions, but the concentrations in rivers entering the sea will be higher and future pollution Will further intensify.
It is estimated that with the reduction of terrestrial emissions, the environmental quality of offshore waters is expected to achieve the quality inflection point measured by conventional monitoring indicators from 2020 to 2025; and the mass inflection point to be perceived by the public will be from 2035 to 2040; The impact is expected to reach a turning point in quality taking into account new factors only around 2050.
Terrestrial terrestrial ecological quality
The remote sensing survey and evaluation of the changes in the national eco-environment over the past ten years show that the overall ecological quality of land areas in the country has improved overall from 2000 to 2010, and service functions have improved significantly. With the optimization of the land space development pattern and industrial structure, and the implementation of ecological protection and ecological restoration projects, the quality of terrestrial ecology in China will be further improved.
However, taking into account the current poor ecological quality background and ecological problems in China, ecological quality improvement needs to follow natural laws, and it is difficult to achieve a qualitative leap in the short term. In the future, it will face poor ecological quality, outstanding ecological problems and The problem of insufficient supply of high-quality ecological products. At the same time, driven by population aggregation and development activities, the ecological quality of emerging urban agglomerations in the central and western regions and the “Belt and Road” nodes is at risk of further deterioration.
It is expected that the inland terrestrial ecological quality will be able to achieve an inflection point from overall improvement, partial deterioration to comprehensive improvement from 2020 to 2025, but it is expected to reach the inflection point of ecological quality that is perceived by the public and meets the public demand for high-quality ecological products. Around 2050.
Terrestrial wetland ecological quality
For a long time, large-scale agricultural reclamation, drainage of surrounding canals, excessive reclamation and aquaculture, fishing and grazing, especially in the past 20-30 years, the large-scale development of rivers, lakes, and banks along the rivers has brought tremendous pressure on wetland ecosystems. , Causing China's natural wetlands to continue to decrease and artificial wetlands to continue to increase; its function as a refuge for rare species and environmental and hydrological regulators decline, leading to the continuous decline of wetland biodiversity, serious environmental pollution, river interruption, wetland dryness, surrounding areas Regional floods and disasters occur frequently.
Although China has strengthened the protection and restoration of wetlands in recent years, the stress of socioeconomic development on wetlands is difficult to alleviate in the short term, and climate change has also brought potential negative effects to wetland ecosystems by affecting the water temperature, soil temperature and hydrological rhythm of wetlands. Impact, and the wetland self-healing also needs to go through a longer period. Therefore, there is still a risk that the ecological quality of China's terrestrial wetlands will deteriorate further in the future.
Compared with terrestrial ecosystems, the restoration of degraded wetland ecosystems is more difficult, and the time of the inflection point of ecological quality will be later. It is expected that from 2025 to 2030, the ecological quality of wetlands will change from continuous deterioration to gradual improvement, and by 2050, it will be able to achieve a quality inflection point that is perceived by the public and meets the public demand for high-quality ecological products.
Offshore ecological quality
For a long time, affected by factors such as reclamation, land-based pollutant discharge, overfishing, alien species invasion, and climate change, China's coastal ecological quality has continued to deteriorate, artificial shorelines have grown disorderly, natural shorelines have continued to decrease, and coastal wetlands have been significantly reduced. Withering, the habitats of important resource organisms such as coral reefs, mangroves and estuaries have been largely lost, and ecosystem health has been impaired.
Over the past years, China's marine environment status bulletins show that China's offshore estuaries, bays, tidal wetlands, coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds are typically sub-healthy or unhealthy. Although the number of recorded red tides in China has a downward trend, the proportion of toxic and harmful algae red tides is increasing and the scale is also increasing.
In the future, China's offshore ecological quality will still be affected by high-intensity human activities and long-term climate change, and it will be difficult to reverse the trend of continuous deterioration in the short term.
Compared with terrestrial wetland ecosystems, offshore ecosystems are affected by more factors, so it is later to realize the inflection point of the transition from continuous deterioration to gradual improvement of ecological quality, which is expected to reach 2030-2035, and achieve publicly perceived ecological quality. The inflection point will be at least around 2050.
Overall judgment of inflection point of ecological environment quality
The next 5-10 years will be an important period of strategic opportunities for China's economic and social development, as well as a period of highlighted contradictions between resource environment and ecological constraints.
The medium-to-high-speed economic growth, large-scale urbanization, dependence on traditional industrialization, and resident consumption growth will continue to increase the pressure on China's ecological environment and expose the country's ecological environment to the risk of continued deterioration. At the same time, some cumulative environmental pollution and ecological destruction problems left over from history may be concentrated outbreaks, and some new pollutants may be exacerbated.
Without active protection measures, some of China's key economic zones, urban agglomerations, and ecologically fragile areas will face extremely severe resource constraints, deterioration of the ecological environment, and worsening ecological problems, seriously endangering China's sustainable development.
The next 5-10 years will also be an important period when the construction of ecological civilization is fully integrated into the overall layout of the "five in one" of China's socialist cause, the reform of the ecological environment system is further promoted, and social and economic development has entered a new normal.
The improvement of science and technology level, the transformation of economic development concepts and methods, the construction and improvement of ecological protection systems, the increase of ecological protection investment, and the awakening of the public's ecological consciousness, etc., are conducive to enhancing the response and optimization of ecological environmental protection in the whole society. Model to alleviate the pressure and risks of the ecological environment facing China.
Different environmental media and different ecosystems are subject to different ecological environmental pressures, and the problems they face and the difficulty of governance vary greatly, which makes the time of the inflection point of the quality of the ecological environment greatly different.
Air pollution control is relatively easy. As long as the amount of pollutants is controlled, the improvement of environmental quality can be achieved quickly. Therefore, it will take the lead in crossing various quality inflection points. In comparison, affected by the long recovery periods of lakes, wetlands, and offshore waters and the impact of many new pollutants, the inflection points of various types of terrestrial and offshore waters will lag behind the corresponding inflection points of atmospheric environmental quality by about 5-10 years. .
Soil pollution control faces greater challenges. The emergence of various inflection points will be delayed much more than the inflection points of terrestrial atmospheric and water environmental quality, and it will become China's fundamental change in ecological and environmental quality in 2035, and basically become a "beautiful China". Key bottleneck factors.
In terms of ecology, terrestrial terrestrial ecosystems will take the lead in crossing various quality inflection points; wetland ecosystems will need to undergo longer recovery periods after being damaged, and the time to achieve the inflection points will be 5-10 years later; offshore ecological quality will also be affected by fisheries and aquaculture , Long-term impacts such as overfishing and climate change, the time to achieve various inflection points will be even later.
In general, in the future, China will be at a stage of improving and deteriorating the quality of the ecological environment, showing an overall trend of improvement, a partial trend of deterioration, a trend of improvement in some fields, a trend of deterioration in some fields, and the quality of conventional ecological environment. Monitoring indicators have gradually improved, and new non-conventional ecological environment quality monitoring indicators have continued to deteriorate.
Around 2025, the quality of the ecological environment based on conventional monitoring indicators will gradually change from gradual deterioration to gradual improvement. However, the transition from unsatisfied to satisfactory environmental quality perceived by the public and the inflection point of the ecological environment quality taking into account new factors are still relatively large. Big gap. To achieve the goals set out in the report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China to build a "beautiful China" by 2035 and build a "beautiful China" by 2050, it will still take hard work.
Ecological environment connotation
The understanding of the concept of "eco-environment" varies greatly between academia, government and the public. This article combines the three aspects of scientific connotation, policy value and public perception, and defines "ecological environment" as: natural elements and natural processes that directly affect human survival and development, mainly due to human actions.
It includes both the narrowly defined environment such as "atmosphere, water, and soil", as well as ecological issues such as "increased urban heat island phenomenon, degraded countryside ecological landscape, and eutrophication of oceans and lakes", which have received increasing attention but still have some controversy It also includes resources and disasters with ecological environment attributes, such as “reduction of groundwater level and frequent floods” that have great social repercussions but do not meet the narrow definition of ecology and environment.
What is the turning point of ecological environment quality?
The study and judgment of the inflection point of ecological environment quality is directly related to the understanding of its connotation. The turning point of the quality of the ecological environment facing the decision of the management of the ecological environment can be understood from three aspects.
Inflection point of ecological environment quality based on conventional monitoring indicators (Figure 1, point A)
Refers to the threshold point at which the quality of the ecological environment, as measured by conventional ecological environment monitoring indicators, changes from continuous deterioration to gradual improvement.
The Communiqu®¶ of the State of the Environment in the past years and the Communiqu®¶ of Environmental Quality in the Coastal Seas are based on conventional environmental monitoring indicators to assess the environmental quality of China and its evolution trends.
Existing studies aiming at the inflection point of China's ecological and environmental quality usually use conventional monitoring indicators as a measure.
The turning point of public perception of the quality of the ecological environment (Figure 1, point B)
Refers to the ecological environment quality threshold point that is generally accepted by the public and can meet the needs of the public for a good ecological environment.
In China, due to the delayed construction of the ecological environment assessment system, the ecological environment information published by the government often does not contain some important indicators, making it difficult to fully reflect the actual situation of the ecological environment, and the evaluation results are not consistent with public perception. Before the establishment of a systematic and complete monitoring and evaluation system, public perception should be taken as an important criterion for ecological environment quality evaluation.
Considering that it takes a long time from the peak of the deterioration of the ecological environment to the realization of the quality of the ecological environment that is satisfactory to the public, therefore, compared with the inflection point of the ecological environment quality measured by current conventional monitoring indicators, the quality of the inflection point perceived by the public requires higher and better results. later.
Inflection point of ecological environment quality considering new factors (Figure 1, point C)
It refers to the threshold point at which the quality of the ecological environment can meet the needs of human health and survival and development after considering the influence of some unobserved indicators, regional differences, and recovery cycles.
In terms of unobserved indicators, some new pollutants have received extensive attention from the academic community, but they have not been included in the current environmental monitoring and management system. When their potential hazards were discovered, they have entered the environment in large quantities through various channels, and have brought huge Environmental health risks; if these new pollutants are included in the monitoring and evaluation system, it will delay the arrival of the inflection point of the ecological environment quality in the true sense.
In terms of regional differences, China ’s industries with high ecological environment impact are gradually shifting to the central and western regions. While the ecological environment in the eastern region is improving, there is a risk of deterioration in the central and western regions. At the same time, the ecological environment in the western region is more fragile and sensitive, and the restoration of ecological environment damage is restored. The cycle is longer, and the inflection point of the quality of the ecological environment is easily delayed.
In terms of recovery period, different media have different recovery speeds of pollution. Some pollution can be self-repaired as soon as the pollution is reduced. However, some pollution, such as river sludge pollution, soil heavy metal pollution, etc. The long recovery period delays the inflection point of the quality of the ecological environment.
The timing of the inflection point of the ecological environment quality is widely affected by various factors, which has great complexity and uncertainty. The degree of socio-economic development and transformation and ecological environmental protection play a vital role in it.
If we accelerate and improve the scientific and reasonable ecological civilization system, increase investment in environmental protection, and accelerate the formation of a situation in which the whole society and various market entities actively participate in ecological environmental protection, China will be expected to achieve various ecological environmental quality inflection points in advance.
However, in order to promote the socio-economic green transformation and the improvement of the ecological environment, it is necessary to follow the laws of socio-economic and natural evolution, and avoid excessive transformation and protection strategies that cause excessive socio-economic costs.
Therefore, the transformation and protection strategy for a century-old power must not only resolve to fight tough battles, solve the outstanding problems currently faced, but also be prepared to fight protracted wars, and make arrangements in advance to solve the current difficulties, but it may endanger China ’s ecology in the future. Potential risks to environmental safety.