China falls short of emission control goal

Updated: 2007-02-12 21:06

Beijing - China's environment watchdog on Monday said the country failed to reach its pollution control goals last year as the economy grew faster than expected.

The sulphur dioxide emissions increased by nearly 463,000 tons, 1.8 percent higher than the previous year. Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a water pollution index, reached 14.31 million tons, 173,000 tons more and 1.2 percent higher than in 2005, said Fan Yansheng, director of the pollution control department of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

China set a goal of reducing the emission of major pollutants by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), and the government had sought to cut the two main pollutants by 2 percent in 2006.

Fan said the increase in pollutants in 2006 was caused by growth in the economy and increased energy consumption.

China also pledged last year to cut the amount of energy required to produce a unit of GDP by 20 percent by the turn of the decade. It has not yet been announced if last year's target of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP has been met. Earlier reports indicated it was highly unlikely the goal would be reached.

The consumption of coal increased by nearly 230 million tons in 2006, resulting in the release of 2.8 million tons of sulphur dioxide from all the coal burning, said Fan.

The output of paper products, one of the major causes of COD, reached more than 58 million tons, an increase of 20 percent over 2005. As a result, the COD grew by 1.2 percent last year, Fan said.

Despite the failure in the first year of the 11th Five-year Plan, environmental officials reiterated their determination to achieve the pollution control target over the next four years.

According to Fan, China aims to reduce its sulphur dioxide emission and COD by 3.2 million tons and 1.23 million tons respectively in 2007.

"We are optimistic we can meet the target by taking a series of concrete measures," said Zhou Shengxian director of SEPA.

Fan said the growth rate of sulphur dioxide emissions was 11.3 percent and COD was 4.4 percent lower than in 2005.

Experts estimate that every 1 percent increase in GDP adds 300,000 more tons of sulphur dioxide emissions and 100,000 tons of COD. The country's GDP is expected to grow 9 percent in each of the next four years.

Zhou lambasted local authorities at a session of the Standing Committee of National Peoples Congress, China's top legislature, at the end of 2006, saying that local protectionism had resulted in rampant violation of the environment.

"In some places, officials still focus on economic growth and neglect environmental protection," said Zhou.

Most of the medium and small-sized factories are still using backward technology and techniques. But local governments are reluctant to sacrifice economic returns by shutting them down.

The environment watchdog also suspects that some local governments have fabricated their environmental indices to meet their targets.

Some international environmental experts have warned that if no strong and effective measures are taken, China will fail to achieve its environmental goal set for the 11th Five-Year Plan period.

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