In March, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promised that health safeguards would be improved and efforts would be made to control air pollution and make water supplies safer.
"We should adopt effective measures to prevent and control pollution and change the way we work and live," Wen said.
The emphasis on environmental and health issues comes as China's leaders confront growing anger about choking pollution, contaminated food, and water that is unsafe to drink.
The statistics are staggering. China now burns 3.8 billion tons of coal each year, nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. In January, the smog over Beijing was so thick, it could be seen from space.
China's CO2 emissions rose by 720 million tons in 2011 -- a 9.3% increase. Pollution and dust generated in China have been found as far away as California.
Maintaining blockbuster growth has sometimes come at the expense of environmental protections.
The government has made explicit its intention to weigh environmental regulation against the cost to the economy. But analysts say the public outcry over pollution has tipped the scales.
China has already tried to boost the use of alternative sources of power, setting standards for solar energy installation and switching from coal to gas in some cities.