A US report that claims Chinese pollution is crossing the Pacific Ocean to contaminate American air and soil has been slammed as unfair and unreliable.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) estimates that on certain days nearly 25 per cent of particulate matter in the skies above Los Angeles comes from China.
And some US experts even claim China could produce a third of all California's airborne pollution on some days.
But a senior Chinese environmental official poured cold water on the US EPA's claims at a press briefing in Beijing yesterday.
"Pollutant movement is a very complicated process, especially when the route is across oceans and continents," said Li Xinmin, deputy director of the Pollution Control Department of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
"And how the 25 per cent was figured out is a question which needs more scientific scrutiny," said Li, whose speciality is air pollution control.
The "irresponsible" report is not the first to blame China for pollution in the US, said Li.
When EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson visited Beijing in April, he agreed that US reports blaming China's large-scale mercury emissions for damage to air quality in the US were not fair, according to Li.
But China's air pollution is still a serious problem, especially the nation's high sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, said Li.
The country discharged a total of 25.49 million tons of SO2 in 2005, the largest amount in the world. Of the total, 21.6 million tons were produced by industry while 3.89 million tons came from domestic sources. SO2 emissions have risen 27 per cent since 2000, according to SEPA figures.
Each ton of the SO2 discharged may cause up to 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) of economic losses. On that basis, China may have suffered a total loss of 509 billion yuan (US$63 billion) in 2005, just under 3 per cent of the year's 18 trillion yuan (US$2,250 billion) Gross Domestic Product.
In the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), China has promised a 10 per cent cut in the country's total SO2 emissions by 2010, compared with the end of 2005. To achieve its goal, the country's annual SO2 discharge must be brought down to a maximum of 22.95 million tons.
The SEPA has signed a set of commitments with the six largest electric power companies and the seven highest SO2 emitting provinces, which are responsible for more than 75 per cent of the country's total SO2 emissions.
"Reducing emissions is a compulsory task for them," said Li. "SEPA expects the public and media to supervise them and make a joint effort to alleviate the threat from acid rain."
Most of China's SO2 emissions come from coal burning.
Li said China's coal consumption increased by more than 800 million tons during the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), among which 500 million tons were wolfed down by the power industry.
Coal accounts for 70 per cent of China's energy consumption a figure that will be hard to change in the short term, said Li.
(China Daily 08/04/2006 page2)