The goals of saving energy and reducing emission, set by the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), have been achieved by and large. But some of the methods used for reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent caused inconvenience to some people. For instance, some city governments in Shanxi, Hebei, Henan and Zhejiang provinces severed power supply and switched off the heating system late last year to meet their environmental targets.
Last week, Zhang Ping, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, even apologized for the extreme measures that the local governments had taken, because the ultimate goal of saving energy is improvement of people's livelihood.
That makes striking a balance between environmental protection measures and people's livelihood a big challenge for China.
Su Yang, an environmental researcher with the State Council's Development Research Center, says it is not an easy task. Take the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), for example. It sets three clear environmental goals: the proportion of non-fossil energy consumption in primary energy consumption should reach 11.4 percent, annual energy consumption per unit GDP should be reduced by 16 percent, and carbon dioxide emission per unit GDP should be cut by 17 percent.
These goals will make greater demands on people. It is thus clear that to protect the environment, we have to forego some of our wants.
This leads us to the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005). Toward the end of 2005, Premier Wen Jiabao said that the 10th Five-Year Plan's major environmental goals had not been met. Rapid development of heavy and chemical industries across China alone was not to blame for that; the lack of mandatory restrictions had also a part to play.
Hence, the 11th Five-Year Plan incorporated the "obligatory environmental indicators", linking environmental management to local officials' overall performance. The mandatory provisions produced results. Three major environmental goals of the 11th Five-Year Plan had been met by 2009, a year before schedule. Other environmental quality indicators improved, too, to various degrees.