Premier Li vows to step up work to up­grade coal-fired power plants to achieve ul­tra-low emis­sions, en­ergy con­ser­va­tion

New Straits Times - - World - AP

CHI­NESE Premier Li Ke­qiang pledged yes­ter­day to make the coun­try’s smoggy skies blue again and “work faster” to ad­dress pol­lu­tion caused by the burn­ing of coal for heat and elec­tric­ity.

His words to del­e­gates at the open­ing of the an­nual Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress high­light how pub­lic dis­con­tent has made re­duc­ing smog, the most vis­i­ble of China’s en­vi­ron­ment prob­lems, a pri­or­ity for the lead­er­ship. The 10-day event got un­der way un­der a sunny blue sky, thanks to heavy gusts from the north.

Li said that “peo­ple are des­per­ately hop­ing for” faster progress to im­prove air qual­ity. “We will make our skies blue again,” he de­clared to al­most 3,000 del­e­gates in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple.

Over the next year, he said the gov­ern­ment in­tended to step up work to up­grade coal-fired power plants to achieve ul­tra-low emis­sions and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion, and pri­ori­tise the in­te­gra­tion of re­new­able en­ergy sources into the elec­tric­ity grid.

De­spite China’s lin­ger­ing de­pen­dence on coal plants, its con­sump­tion of the en­ergy source fell for a third year in a row last year. Coal now makes up 62 per­cent of China’s en­ergy con­sump­tion mix.

Build­ing on pub­licly avail­able real-time and hourly read­ings from coal plants and other fac­to­ries, Li said: “All key sources of in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion will be placed un­der round-the-clock on­line mon­i­tor­ing.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups wel­come the dis­clo­sure of such data be­cause it al­lows the pub­lic to su­per­vise the emis­sions of plants.

Lauri Myl­lyvirta, se­nior coal cam­paigner for Green­peace, said they had ex­pected the gov­ern­ment to an­nounce a speed­ing up of mea­sures be­cause air pol­lu­tion was sup­posed to hit tar­gets this year that were laid down in 2013. They in­clude a 25 per cent re­duc­tion in the den­sity of fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter — a gauge of air pol­lu­tion — in the cap­i­tal and the sur­round­ing re­gion from 2012 lev­els.

Li also said the gov­ern­ment would ramp up ef­forts to deal with ve­hi­cle emis­sions by work­ing faster to take old ve­hi­cles off the roads and en­cour­age the use of clean-en­ergy cars.

En­vi­ron­men­tal laws and regu la­tions would be strictly en­forced and of­fi­cials who failed to do so would be held “fully ac­count­able,” he said, with­out giv­ing de­tails. Lo­cal of­fi­cials have of­ten been lax at en­forc­ing reg­u­la­tions on com­pa­nies that con­trib­ute to eco­nomic growth in their ar­eas.

Li said that this year sul­fur diox­ide and ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions — gasses pro­duced by burn­ing fos­sil fu­els that can cause res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems — would both be cut by three per cent, and the den­sity of fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter known as PM2.5 would fall “markedly” in key ar­eas. Of­fi­cial data show an im­prove­ment in China’s air qual­ity since 2013, when the gov­ern­ment brought out its air pol­lu­tion ac­tion plan.


Del­e­gates leav­ing the Great Hall of the Peo­ple un­der sunny blue skies af­ter at­tend­ing the open­ing ses­sion of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress in Bei­jing yes­ter­day.

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