Beijing: China today said it needs USD 1.3 trillion investments in the next few years to clean up its environment, with pollution control emerging as one of the most important drivers of growth in the world's second largest economy.
"China's environmental problem is still severe," Environmental Protection Minister Chen Jining told a media briefing here and cited dangers of poor environmental quality, grave ecological damage and high environmental risks that come with unreasonable industrial layout.
The newly appointed minister said that environmental protection is an important growth driver for China and the total investment demand for environmental protection in the country will be around eight trillion yuan (USD 1.3 trillion) to 10 trillion yuan over the next few years.
Such investment provides "good momentum" for economic growth as it has no repeated construction and yields long-term returns, Chen said.
Currently, the government funds account for 30 to 40 per cent of the total input into environmental protection, Chen said, adding that the ministry will seek to advance price reform to build a mechanism for measuring project returns and further ease market access by means such as public private partnership.
He said China is faced with the unprecedented conflict between environmental protection and development. China ranked highest in emitted greenhouse gases followed by the US.
Chen also warned against overlooking pollution in the countryside as China puts greater effort and funding into combating urban pollution.
Chen said environmental control measures have been applied in only 10 per cent of rural villages, which are mostly very dirty and vowed to give more attention to the problem of countryside pollution.
The government has allocated 25 billion yuan (about USD 4 billion) to deal with rural pollution. While the fund is expected to cover 59,000 villages and benefit 110 million people, it still looks inadequate compared with spending on urban pollution.
In Beijing alone, officials plan to spend 50 billion yuan (USD 8.3 billion) on curbing pollution over next five years.
Chen said China needs to make "extra efforts" to battle the grave air pollution as about 80 per cent of more than 300 cities failed to meet the official standard of air quality last year, with smog frequently choking the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas.
As the world's most populous country, China has been seeking a "difficult balance" between economic and social development and ecological and environmental protection.
Environmental deterioration is blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts, Premier Li Keqiang said while delivering the annual government work report to the parliament on Thursday.