Authorities urged to save resources
Experts urged the government to take a proactive approach to resource conservation to ensure sustainability in China's economy.
Responding to the central government's 2005 economic blueprint, they said resource-saving should become the government's major lever for macroeconomic control.
Instead of mainly relying on exploiting resources, the government should launch a public campaign to save them, said R.C. Lao, a senior Canadian expert on social and economic development.
"As the resources are getting scarce, the Chinese Government must take a firm and positive stand to encourage the reduction of wasteful action," said Lao, the resident project manager of the Canada-China Project on Cleaner Production under the Canadian International Development Agency.
He said an aggressive target should be set every year until the end of 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) to save resources while sustaining a relatively rapid growth of the economy.
"The urgency of saving resources also resulted from the fact that China's cost for national gross domestic product (GDP) growth is one of the highest in the world, including the energy and material consumption associated with it," said Lao.
The country must adopt a model characterized with low consumption of natural resources, control of environmental pollution, and efficient deployment of human resources, Lao said.
Lao suggested that international experience in power consumption should be borrowed as China's power generation industry accounts for most of the fuel production and produces a majority of the air pollution.
He said so-called "energy smart" programmes implemented around the world should be actively pursued in China.
"The essence of the programmes is that the government should concretely encourage energy-saving actions and even provide financial incentives to help users save electricity," said Lao.
Fortunately, a plan is ready. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last week made public a medium- and long-term energy savings plan.
With an annual savings rate of 3 per cent, China's energy consumption could reach 3 billion tons of standard coal by 2020.
Lao's suggestions were echoed by visiting scholar Zhang Jianyu, who said next year is critical for policy-makers to present a clear but scientific roadmap for the nation.
"Personally speaking, 2005 will be a year for us to look back because that's an important step for us to go ahead," said Zhang, also head of the Beijing office of the US-based non-governmental organization Environmental Defence.
Instead of just government departments, other social forces should have access to the 10th Five Year Plan in 2005, said Zhang, adding that his office will invest some energy to review the government's efforts in environmental protection between 2001-2005.
He said tougher requirements on workplace safety; environmental impact evaluation and land use should be imposed to further cool down heated investment.
"There is still much room for us to implement such regulations in the first two areas," said Zhang. He said many local officials are still enthusiastic in absorbing more investment, instead of aiming to achieve balanced development between social well-being and the economy.
China has already adopted strict land protection measures to ensure enough arable land is available and cool down heated investment since the beginning of last year.
The government has cleared 70,600 projects or 17,274.4 billion yuan (US$2,089 billion) worth of fixed assets investment since April.
"We need to enhance the co-ordination of the measures in the areas and achieve real sustainable development," said Zhang.