The announcement came as China's Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian warned of huge pressures and a "long and winding" road ahead, China's official state-run news agency Xinhua reported Thursday.
"China's environmental pressure is bigger than any other country's, and our problem in environmental resources is more outstanding than any other country's. All these issues pose more difficulties for us to solve," Zhou said.
Under the announced goals, the first stage will achieve control over the emission of major pollutants and ensure the nation's environmental safety by 2020, officials said.
By the end of 2030, they said, the emissions volume of all pollutants will be "under full control" with improvements to overall environmental quality.
Finally, environmental quality by the end of 2050 "should be compatible with people's increasing quality of living for a country that is a socialist modern power," officials said.
The goals were the result of a strategic research project that took more than 50 academics and hundreds of experts three years to develop, Xinhua said.