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Pollution-Reduction Goals Still Far Away, Admits Official

Agence France-Presse in Beijing, Updated on Oct 29, 2008

Mainland is having trouble meeting energy efficiency and pollution-reduction goals, but the government remains determined to reach the targets, a top official said on Wednesday.

Vice-Minister of Planning Xie Zhenhua also said Beijing will consider controls on the greenhouse gas emissions of its worst polluting industries if the rich world will hand over clean technology to keep poorer nations competitive.

China has a target of reducing the amount of energy it consumes per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent over the five years to 2010.

It has also vowed to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions, a key air pollutant, and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, by 10 per cent each from 2005 levels.

“Our work over the next three years will be very difficult, but the government will not waver in assessing the situation in accordance with these goals,” Mr Xie said. Mr Xie also signalled Beijing’s first nod of approval to the “sectoral approach” to containing industrial emissions at the launch of a policy paper on how the country plans to tackle global warming.

Mainland officials have previously denounced the “sectoral approach” as a scheme for rich, high-tech nations to gain a competitive edge by imposing extra costs on rising challengers in sectors, such as steel, concrete and power.

But Beijing is pushing rich nations to transfer more pollution-cutting technology to poorer nations undergoing emissions-intensive industrialisation, and Mr Xie suggested a focus on polluting industries could satisfy both sides.

“China believes that using a sectoral approach is an important measure for implementing emissions reductions in every country. We can decide this for industries with high emissions levels and then transform the technology that these industries use to cut emissions,” Mr Xie said.

“But in whose hands is this technology? Most of it is in the hands of developed nations. If they take this technology and give it to developing nations, it will without a doubt be able to resolve a large amount of the greenhouse gas emission problem.”

Varying proposals for a sectoral approach to curbing emissions involve setting fixed caps, broader reduction guidelines or incentive systems for firms.

Mr Xie did not delve into such specifics or say which industries could be targeted.

But he stressed that up to a quarter of the country’s emissions bill came from manufacturing goods for export, and urged consumer nations to shoulder some responsibility for this pollution.

“Because we are at the low end of the industrial chain, transferred emissions from goods manufactured from exports stand at between 14.5 per cent and 24 per cent of the total.”

“We are footing other people’s bills,” added Mr Xie, who is vice-chairman of the energy and climate-change policy making National Development and Reform Commission.

Mr Xie said he would like rich nations to spend the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of their economy each year on funding cleaner technology to help poor countries skip the dirtiest phase of industrialisation and urbanisation.

He cited the complicated transformers and bearings used in wind turbines as an example of a key technology that could help mainland rapidly expand an already booming sector that makes a clear contribution to cutting emissions.

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