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Economy May Affect Greenhouse Gas Targets

Stephen Chen – SCMP | Updated on Nov 08, 2008

China would have a difficult task in overcoming economic hurdles to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets, a senior central government official said yesterday. Miao Xu, deputy minister of industry and information technology, said in Shanghai that the nation was facing a lot of unexpected adversities this year from home and abroad, making the task of cutting emissions and pollution extremely challenging, Xinhua reported.

The country’s goal, set by the 11th Five-Year Plan, was to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent in 2010 and emissions of major pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and airborne dust, by 10 per cent from 2006.

But even with a thriving economy in the plan’s first two years, the country failed to keep up with the annual benchmarks and, because of a disappointing performance in the first half of this year, will probably miss the mark again.

Those failures would make the job difficult, if not impossible in the next two years, Mr Miao said.

To make things worse, an unprecedented blizzard and earthquake hit the nation this year before the world’s biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression began.

He said that to meet the emissions targets in the plan’s remaining two years, the country would have to reduce energy consumption by 18 per cent through industrial upgrades, including rapidly adopting some of the world’s most advanced manufacturing technology.

Mainland enterprises, from steel to power and light industry, have invested heavily in energy efficiency, mostly through funds raised in a booming stock market and foreign investment.

But mainland stock markets have dropped by more than 70 per cent this year, and many companies have reported sharp falls in profit, and even losses.

Gross domestic product in the first three quarters dropped to 9.9 per cent, a 2.3 percentage-point decline from last year, recording the first growth rate below 10 per cent in five years.

The growth rate of large industries was cut by more than 3 percentage points, and investment in infrastructure fell by 10 per cent.

It would be difficult to imagine that, under such economic circumstances, business would have much incentive to take part in the global anti-climate-warming campaign, some environmental experts said.

Even so, the government was considering dramatically increasing public investment to meet the emissions target, Huang Li , deputy director of the National Energy Bureau’s energy conservation and scientific equipment department, told Xinhua in Chengdu yesterday.

The State Council had discussed a proposal to nearly double the targeted nuclear capacity to 7,000 MW by 2020, Mr Huang said.