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Uphill Battle To Reach Green Targets By 2010

Kristine Kwok in Beijing – Updated on Mar 12, 2008 – SCMP

China still faces an uphill battle in achieving its key environmental targets by 2010, because of an overheating economy and low motivation in the business sector, an official said in Beijing yesterday.

Critics have cast doubt on the government’s ability to reduce air pollution by 10 per cent and cut the amount of energy used per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent by the end of the 11th five-year economic plan. Their doubts stem from data that suggests air pollution declined just 3 per cent in the first two years of the five-year period.

Xie Zhenhua , a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress that sulfur dioxide emissions and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, would still be higher than ideal levels even if the targets were achieved by 2010.

“To reduce the air pollution index by 7 per cent in the next three years is a daunting task. The situation is very severe,” Mr Xie said.

The targets were missed in 2006. But according to Premier Wen Jiabao’s work report to the NPC last week both pollution indicators dropped last year, with the energy used per unit of GDP down 3.27 per cent, sulfur dioxide emissions down 4.66 per cent and COD down 3.14 per cent.

Mr Xie said reliance on heavy industry and resistance from industry to adopting cleaner measures were major reasons for the slower-than-expected cleanup.

Mr Xie said an accountability mechanism would be put in place this year with investigations carried out to scrutinise the efforts of governments and some 1,000 big enterprises to reduce pollution.

Investigation results would be made public in May and June, while those for enterprises would be available later this month, he said.

The government also aimed to shut small coal-fired power plants producing a combined 1,300 MW of power, outdated cement production lines with an annual capacity of 50 million tonnes, steel firms pumping out 6 million tonnes a year and smelters producing 14 million tonnes of iron.

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