An economic slowdown can help China realize energy-saving and emission control targets that the government might have previously found difficult to achieve, leaders in the environmental sector have said.
"We hope China's stimulus plan, amid the global recession, can encompass decisive elements in achieving sustainable and low-carbon development," said Wu Changhua, Greater China director of the London-based environmental organization, The Climate Group, at a discussion yesterday on the current financial crisis and climate change.
The authorities could embark on a low-carbon development path by realizing its new stimulus plan and shaking off excessive slowdown, Wu said.
The government had previously said reaching energy-saving targets were 'challenging'.
In 2006, China cut energy use by 1.23 percent, but its target was 4 percent. It was closer to the target last year, but still short by 0.34 of a percentage point.
Liu He, deputy director of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economy Work, also told China Daily recently that the economic slowdown could work as an opportunity for China to restructure its economy, which had previously relied heavily on government investment, foreign trade and low-cost technology over the past few years.
Liu said China is likely to embark on a low-carbon path, which means it will implement tougher measures to save energy, control emissions and promote responsible investment.
Similarly, the closure of a number of factories in the steel, iron, concrete and other energy-intensive sectors could help China achieve its goal of cutting down per unit GDP energy intensity by 20 percent and pollutant emissions by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010, participants of the forum said.
Manufacturing and construction accounts for 70 percent of the country's total energy use.
Conversely, environmental stakeholders expressed concern at yesterday's discussion that projects the authorities plan to launch soon to stimulate the economy may become energy and resource intensive.
They worried that the global financial crisis may slow down efforts to achieve a worldwide deal on climate change in spite of China's firm stance.
"All have been focused on finding solutions to the crisis and I am fearing the deal will be put off," said Yang Fuqiang, chief representative of the US-based Energy Foundation in Beijing.
However, Nicholas Stern, a former UK government advisor, recently said in Beijing that all the parties, including the US, EU and China, are well on track in achieving a global deal.
"I am confident of it," Stern said.