Three Zones Environmental Guidelines

China’s New ‘Three Zones’ for Environmental Protection Guidelines


Further information on the China’s Guidelines on region-specific environmental management has been provided on March 18, 2024 by Ying Xue from the China Ecological Civilization newsletter on Substack.

The newsletter reports that the guidelines, titled “关于加强生态环境分区管控的意见” Guidelines on Strengthening Ecological Environment Zoning Management and Control, provide for three categories of zones.

The first category is “生态环境优先保护单元” or Ecological Environment Protection Priority Zone, which will be determined by the ecological protection red lines.

The second category is “生态环境重点管控单元”or Ecological Environment Management and Control Priority Zone, which will include areas with high pressure to improve ecological environment quality, high resource and energy consumption intensity, high intensity of pollutant emissions, serious ecological damage, and those with high environmental risks.

The second category zone will focus on the conflicts between economic development and ecological environment protection.

All other areas will belong to the third category zone named “Others.”

The China Ecological Civilization newsletter comments: “According to the Guidelines, three categories will take different measures to improve ecological environment. … For the first category, the task is to protect the ecological environment, and economic development will not be considered as priority.”

“For the second category, the task is to improve the ecological environment amid economic and social development, which is much (more) difficult.” “For the third category, the task (implementation )will not be so difficult (rigorous) as the first and second categories” … [and will be subject to other applicable environmental laws and regulations].

The Guidelines also indicated that the zoning will be adjusted every five years in accordance with national economic and social development plan (China’s five-year plan) and land spatial planning assessment.


China issues guidelines on region-specific environmental management

China has rolled out guidelines on a more region-specific approach to environmental management.

The guidelines recognize it is important to adopt a region-specific approach to environmental management, and to enforce red lines for the protection of ecosystems, the quality of the environment, and rational resource utilization.

By 2025, the system for region-specific environmental management should be essentially established, and the system will be full-fledged and functioning efficiently by 2035, the guidelines noted.

The guidelines include 18 detailed policies in six aspects, including facilitating high-quality development, ensuring high-level protection of the ecological environment, and strengthening supervision and assessment.

The guidelines were jointly issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council on March 6, 2024 . ■


Xinhua, March 17, 2024.…/WS65f6c735a31082fc043bd…

China Ecological Civilization, March 18, 2024.