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Fast Growth Derails Plan To Cut Emissions

Shi Jiangtao in Beijing – Updated on Jul 02, 2008 – SCMP

Robust economic growth, and expanding energy intensive and heavily polluting sectors have seriously hindered efforts to achieve key environmental targets, a State Council meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao has concluded.

Meeting energy and pollution control targets by 2010 was a “grave challenge” halfway through the current five-year plan, Xinhua said.

The harsh warning, which did not come with any updated statistics on economic growth, energy use or pollution emissions in the first six months of the year, came about a week before President Hu Jintao’s departure for the Group of Eight meeting in Japan, which will place climate change high on its agenda.

Joining the United States as the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, China has faced enormous pressure to cut greenhouse gases and accept binding emission caps.

But Beijing has so far defied international pressure for fear that the caps would devastate the country’s economic development, as Mr Hu said at a recent gathering of top Communist Party leaders.

Instead, Beijing set ambitious targets two years ago to cut energy consumption by 20 per cent and reduce air pollution by 10 per cent by 2010.

Although authorities reported progress in curbing the emission of major pollutants and promoting energy efficiency last year for the first time in years, it appears to be far from enough to reverse environmental deterioration.

The situation at the moment is rather grim, featuring faster-than-expected economic growth, especially so in industries with high energy consumption and high pollution emissions,” the meeting in Beijing concluded.

To achieve the targets on energy use and pollution control in the remaining 2-1/2 years will be “a formidable task” and require key breakthroughs in scaling down energy-intensive sectors, Xinhua said.

Renewing the government’s commitment to combating pollution, the meeting said Beijing would shut down small thermal power generators with a total capacity of 13 million kW this year.

Energy-consuming industries such as cement, steel, metal and paper manufacturing would be subject to stricter checks, and environmental assessment would be strengthened before new industrial projects were approved.

Also, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added his voice yesterday, calling on China to make bigger efforts and accept its global responsibilities in tackling climate change.

“It is important that we have China on board for this common effort to address climate change,” he said just before leaving Tokyo for a three-day visit to China.

“Now China is also a very important global power. They have a global responsibility.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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