Green goal missed by big margin

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-10 07:21

The nation flunked the first test in its goal of meeting ambitious energy-saving and environment-protection goals in the current five-year plan.

The target set for last year was to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 4 percent and pollutant emissions by 2 percent but only Beijing and five other provinces or municipalities, which were not named, reportedly passed the grade.

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It was not revealed how much off the target the overall performance was.

"From a nationwide perspective, it is certain that last year's energy-consumption reduction goal could not be achieved," Han Wenke, director of the Energy Research Institute affiliated to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said yesterday.

The goal set for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) was to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent as well as key pollutant discharge by 10 percent.

But the report card for last year was dismal according to figures for the first half of 2006, energy consumption per unit of GDP actually rose 0.8 percent. Figures for the whole year are not yet available.

Ma Kai, minister of the NDRC, admitted last December that "it is extremely hard to achieve this year's goal", citing a failure to optimize the industrial structure in a short time and a lack of supportive policies.

Ma also warned of a possible failure this year with energy-guzzling and heavily-polluting industries continuing to be set up.

The State Environment Protection Administration (SEPA) said there might have been a 2 percent increase in both chemical oxygen demand (COD) a key index of water quality and emissions of sulfur dioxide last year.

But Zhou Dadi, former director of the Energy Research Institute, was optimistic.

"Though the goal was not achieved, a good foundation has been laid with unprecedented attention paid to energy conservation."

Zhou said that the "inertia" of an imbalanced economic growth pattern which relies excessively on high-energy-consuming and heavily-polluting industries to drive up the GDP as well as poor energy conservation technologies are behind the failure.

All 31 provinces and municipalities have impressed upon local governments and key enterprises the need to meet the green targets, the NDRC said.

Zhou suggested a holistic approach to energy conservation as well as using a carrot-and-stick approach like special funds or a resources tax.

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