China’s President Xi Jinping said the country must fight against waste and irrational consumption as it bids to reverse the damage done to its environment after decades of breakneck growth, state media reported on Saturday.

Speaking at a meeting, Xi said that while China had made great progress in tackling pollution, its achievements had not been fully “consolidated”, Xinhua reported.

“We must speed up the construction of a system of ecological civilisation and ensure that the ecology and environment are fundamentally improved by 2035, and that our goal of building a beautiful China is basically achieved.”

China had reached a critical period on the issue of protecting the environment, and the public’s expectations were growing, Xi said.

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With the economy transitioning from high-speed to high-quality growth, Xi said the nation would face conventional and unconventional challenges and difficulties.

“We must bite the bullet and overcome them,” he said.

The government launched a campaign to tackle pollution in 2014 amid rising public discontent about the state of the country’s skies, waterways and soil. It has since introduced a slew of measures aimed at curbing industrial pollution, improving environmental law enforcement, and boosting emission standards and clean energy use.

Those efforts helped to bring average concentrations of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 down by 6.5 per cent last year, but levels, especially in smog-prone northern regions, remain significantly above the target of 35 micrograms per cubic metre.

China has started to conduct central environmental inspections, introduced guidelines to control air, water and soil pollution, published plans to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is implementing a national plan to tackle climate change, Xinhua said.

But the environment ministry said last month that the battle against smog had reached “stalemate” and experts have called for more targeted measures to improve air quality.

Xi called for the effective prevention of ecological and environmental risks, saying ecological and environmental security was an important part of national security.

Ecological risk management would become a regular practice, he said.

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He said that the construction of the “ecological civilisation system” would involve adjusting the economic and energy structure, improving industrial layouts, nurturing and expanding industries involved in energy conservation, environmental protection and clean energy, he said.

The top priority was tackling air pollution, Xi said, adding that an action plan for the prevention and control of water pollution was also necessary.

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