China will reach its peak in the emission of major pollutants in the next five to 10 years, experts said on Tuesday.
However, that will not trigger the turning point for the quality of the environment, according to a report from the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development.
"It will take 15 to 20 years to reduce emissions enough to bring about a fundamental change for the better," said Chen Jining, the minister of environmental protection.
The next five years will prove critical as China continues toward its goal of building a prosperous society, yet the quality of the environment may hinder it from realizing its goals, he said.
"The rapid economic growth in the past years has come with a high price in the environment. The ability of the ecology and the environment to cope with some forms of pollution has reached or exceeded its limits."
China faces more complex pollution issues than those encountered by developed countries in the past, with multiple pollution sources in different regions and industries, Chen said.
"The large emission of major pollutants and the huge social and economic gap between the eastern and western regions are also creating obstacles for curbing environmental pollution," he added.
"But the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) will also present great opportunities to improve the environment because of growing attention from the central government and an improved legal system protecting the environment."
The minister spoke during the International Advisory Meeting on the Environment and Development for China's 13th Five-Year Plan, held in Beijing on Tuesday.
Many environmental experts and officials have shared their suggestions on the national road map in the next five years.
China needs to use "greenization" to push the development of the plan, said Ren Yong, assistant secretary-general of the council, who headed the experts' research.
"To measure 'greenization', China needs to stipulate specific indicators and binding targets in various fields," he said.