Two new cabinet level ministries will be tasked with managing natural resources and fighting pollution. The cabinet level reorganisation is also seen as a step forward for the much-discussed concept of “ecological civilisation”. In 2012, at the 18th Party Congress, the need to build an ecological civilisation was elevated to an unprecedented level, highlighting the importance of environmental affairs to the Chinese leadership.
In 2015, a master plan for the reform of institutions and systems to realise ecological civilisation was promulgated. The plan listed a set of principles and objectives, and announced that by 2020, China should “complete institutional set-up in line with ecological civilisation.”
“Establishing the new ministries is one of the most concrete steps along the way of implementing the master plan,” Peng Yingdeng, former director of Beijing’s Atmospheric Environment Research Institute, told chinadialogue. “It lays the foundation for the creation of key pieces of policies, such as payment schemes for ecological services,” he added.
The set-up of the two new ministries embody those concepts. A core duty of the MNR is to serve as the ultimate “owner” of most of the country’s natural resources. To do that it will conduct census and surveys to ascertain the status and distribution of forests, wetlands and agricultural fields and assign proper values to those resources.