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April 11, 2015

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Pollution fight moves up China’s priority list

MORE than 920 billion yuan (US$150 billion) has been channeled to support the renovation of land, air pollution control and clean water projects since last year, China’s top planner said yesterday.

Energy conservation and environmental protection projects benefit China’s economic restructuring, said Zhang Yong, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a national meeting.

He said that the targets for energy conservation and emission reduction were the government’s top priorities this year and environmental protection projects will be expedited.

The central government plans to reduce energy intensity (units of energy per unit of GDP) by 3.1 percent in 2015.

Any failure to tackle China’s huge pollution problems in the coming years could stoke public discontent and create “social conflicts,” government researchers have warned.

With pollution identified as a major source of unrest, the government has promised to tackle a host of environmental problems brought about by more than three decades of breakneck economic growth.

The Institute of Environmental Planning, run by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said China’s economy has now “basically said goodbye” to scarcity and the state was now having to meet rising public demand for a cleaner environment.

China is trying to slash coal burning and has also threatened to close thousands of industrial enterprises if they fail to comply with stricter emissions and energy use standards.

According to official data, only eight of 74 cities monitored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection last year met state air quality standards, and authorities do not expect average pollution levels to make the grade until 2030.

But the institute said China’s war on pollution was likely to become easier as a result of structural changes in the economy, with traditional heavy industrial output now peaking, though there could be unforeseen environmental consequences stemming from attempts to diversify into new industries.

It forecast total energy consumption would rise to 4.3 billion tones of standard coal by the end of this year, up from 4.26 billion tons last year, and would rise to 4.5 billion tons by 2020.


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