Na­tion lags on en­vi­ron­men­tal tar­gets

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By WU WEN­CONG and AN BAIJIE

China’s per­for­mance in four ar­eas re­lated to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion fell short of stan­dards set to help the coun­try achieve its so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment goals by 2015, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased on Wednes­day by the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion eval­u­ated the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment in 28 cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing as­pects of eco­nomic growth, tech­nol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment and peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.

Three of the four fac­tors that fell short re­lated to en­ergy con­sump­tion.

Con­sump­tion of non­fos­sil fu­els, which was planned to rise by 3.1 per­cent over five years from 2010, rose only 0.8 per­cent in 2011 and 2012 com­bined, mak­ing the 2015 tar­get con­sid­er­ably harder to reach.

The other two en­ergy-re­lated cri­te­ria — en­ergy con­sump­tion per unit of do­mes­tic gross prod­uct and car­bon diox­ide emis­sions per unit of GDP — each dropped only by about 6 per­cent by 2013, com­pared with the 2015 tar­get for both of about 17 per­cent.

To­tal emis­sions of ni­tro­gen ox­ide were sup­posed to fall 10 per­cent by 2015, but in­stead rose by 2.82 per­cent from 2010 lev­els by the end of 2012.

“There were mul­ti­ple rea­sons the four ar­eas came in be­low ex­pec­ta­tions, such as eco­nomic growth, which sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions; lag­ging in­dus­trial re­struc­tur­ing; and com­pa­nies’ re­luc­tance to re­duce emis­sions,” said Xu Shaoshi, min­is­ter of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion.

Zhou Dadi, vice-chair­man of the China En­ergy Re­search So­ci­ety, said lo­cal govern­ments con­tinue to fo­cus on GDP growth, even though the cen­tral govern­ment has em­pha­sized that it is cru­cial for growth to be sus­tain­able.

“If the cen­tral govern­ment sets the GDP growth tar­get at 7.5 per­cent, that could be­come 9 per­cent for pro­vin­cial govern­ments, and 12 or even 15 per­cent at the city level,” Zhou said.

In con­se­quence, he said, lo­cal govern­ments are still accepting in­ef­fi­cient in­vest­ments in in­dus­tries such as steel and ce­ment pro­duc­tion, which ul­ti­mately leads to high emis­sions and en­ergy con­sump­tion.

China now has even more pol­lut­ing sources, af­fect­ing larger re­gions and hav­ing longer-term in­flu­ence, Xu told the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Wednes­day with re­gard to en­force­ment of the 12th FiveYear Plan (2011-15).

Air qual­ity in 60 per­cent of do­mes­tic cities failed to meet the stan­dard this year, and the wa­ter and soil pol­lu­tion have be­come more se­ri­ous, Xu said.

The next step will be to adopt dou­ble con­trols on en­ergy in­ten­sity and to­tal en­ergy con­sump­tion, he said.

But Zhou said that con­trol­ling to­tal en­ergy con­sump­tion may be very dif­fi­cult to achieve at the pro­vin­cial level or be­low.

This is partly be­cause some of the en­ergy is con­sumed by small and medium- sized en­ter­prises that num­ber in the mil­lions and that are ex­tremely hard to con­trol, he said. Another fac­tor is the dif­fi­culty in bud­get­ing and ac­count­ing for en­ergy con­sump­tion.

Zhou Ben­shun, Party chief of He­bei prov­ince, the part of China with the worst pol­lu­tion, said re­cently that the pro­vin­cial GDP will in­crease by 8.5 per­cent in 2013. The growth rate will be low­ered to 8 per­cent in 2014. Con­tact the writ­ers at wuwen­cong@chi­ and an­bai­jie@chi­ Zheng Jinran in Shi­ji­azhuang con­trib­uted to this story.

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