Business / Green China

Slower economic growth results in less air pollution

By Lan Lan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-29 06:50

Slower economic expansion in the first half of 2014 has helped some regions in China perform better in fulfilling goals for energy saving and cutting emissions, according to a report released by the National Development and Reform Commission on Monday.

Fujian, Hainan and Qinghai provinces, and Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions received red-light warnings for insufficient action in conserving energy in the first half of the year, the report said. The rest of the regions have made basically smooth progress toward their energy-saving goals.

The outcome is in line with the regions' economic performance in the first six months, said Li Junfeng, director general of National Center of Climate Change Strategy Research.

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A total of 29 provinces announced data for economic growth for the first half of the year. Despite the rather slow national economic growth, western regions such as the Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions, Chongqing, Guizhou and Qinghai maintained double-digit growth.

Nationally, China's economy grew at 7.4 percent year-on-year in the first half, slowing from 7.7 percent from the previous year. Growth of six regions including Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jilin was lower than the national growth rate in the first half, according to official data.

China's most polluted region, Hebei province, got a green light in energy conservation in the first half, partly due to economic restructuring under the pressure to clean up its smog. Hebei grew 5.8 percent year-on-year in the first half, the lowest rate seen among all regions.

Li Yan, head of Greenpeace East Asia's Climate and Energy Campaign, said many energy-guzzling projects are still under construction in the western regions and many of them are fossil fuel projects.

The NDRC also said it will include regional energy consumption growth rate in local officials' accountability.

"Local officials will face greater accountability for their performance in saving energy and cutting emissions. That's a very positive move and we can see all the measures are tightening up to cut the carbon emission level," said Li.

Around 12 provinces have launched plans for controlling coal use - a positive for reducing smog and emissions as coal is a major source of carbon pollution.

Both the energy and power consumption indexes indicated prospects for energy conservation are brighter this year, as a reflection of the economy's weakness, said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

China's electricity consumption in the first half increased by 5.3 percent year-on-year, much lower than the nation's GDP growth rate over the same period, indicating economic growth is still facing great downward pressure, said Lin.

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