China to 'declare war' on pollution, cut energy use

By Wang Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-14 09:26

China to 'declare war' on pollution, cut energy use

China will "declare war" in the battle against pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday at the closing of the National People's Congress session.

His comments explained his declaration of China's "war on smog" at the start of the annual parliamentary meeting last week, saying the government will come down with an "iron fist" against pollution.

He vowed to give harsh punishments to polluters and crack down on officials who have been negligent in solving environmental issues.

Although tackling the issue still has a long way to go, he said the whole society, including the government, businesses and citizens, should work together and consistently in the fight against pollution.

"We cannot wait for wind or rain," Li said.

He added that the country has monitored PM 2.5, particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less, in 161 of the country's 660 cities and regions, which is the most extensive scale of monitoring in a developing economy.

"Many people check the PM 2.5 readings when they get up in the morning, which makes it a crucial issue for the public," Li said.

PM 2.5 monitoring cannot only be a reminder to the public to take protective measures against pollution, but also means of putting pressure on governments to act, Li said.

Li said the country aims to cut energy intensity by 3.9 percent this year to strengthen conservation and emission reduction, which means the country will cut coal consumption by 220 million metric tons.

Scientists found coal burning to be a major contributor to PM 2.5 pollutants.

Environmental protection has drawn high attention among the country's legislators and political advisers in the just-closed two sessions.

A total of 596 proposals were submitted to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee this year on environment issues, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Wang Xiangchao, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a CPPCC member, called for scientists to develop more economical and effective air purifiers.

Xie Chaohua, another CPPCC member, proposed that a smog subsidy should be given to outdoor workers.

While emphasizing the decision to tackle pollution, Li said issues involving people's livelihoods will be key work this year for the central government. He vowed to build a sound social security system for the public, including compulsory education, medical insurance and pensions.

More than 800 million people across the country are covered by the pension system, Li said.

He said this year the government will gradually enhance pension levels and merge the medical insurance systems in rural and urban areas.