China’s environment minister has issued an unusually stern warning that pollution threatens to imperil growth, positioning it as a central theme of the next five-year plan to be launched at the annual National People’s Congress this weekend.
“Natural resources are shrinking, degenerating and drying up. Ecological and environmental decay has become a bottleneck and a serious obstacle to our economic and social development,” said Zhou Shengxian. “If our homeland is destroyed and we lose our health, then what good does development do?”
His comments echoed those of Wen Jiabao in a web chat on Sunday, in which China’s premier emphasised the need for slower, cleaner growth and announced a new, lower, gross domestic product growth target of 7 per cent.
“Environmental concerns will play a major role in massaging the way the economy is going to grow in the 12th five-year plan,” said Zhang Jianyu, head of China’s environmental defence fund.
“The next five-year plan will be challenging because China is going to move from this export and investment-oriented approach into a more stable, balanced, sustainable approach.”
The timing of the remarks hints at the political battles being waged behind the scenes by the fledgling ministry of environmental protection, which was formed only three years ago, as it jockeys with older ministries for the power to enforce environmental standards.
The next five-year plan includes broader environmental goals than ever before. In addition to targets for reducing energy intensity and carbon dioxide intensity, it will focus on a wider range of pollutants, including nitrogen oxide, which is produced by cars, and ammonia nitrogen, a water pollutant.
Mr Zhou’s statement included a comprehensive prescription for boosting environmental protection. He discussed the idea of a tax that would be levied on polluters, for example and a stricter standard of environmental approvals for industrial projects.
In a nod to the bureaucratic politics that have so far kept the environment ministry relatively toothless compared with its more established peers, he also called for greater co-operation from leaders of all departments.
Mr Zhou has become increasingly outspoken about the environmental costs of China’s breakneck growth. China is now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and human activities that scientists say are causing global warming. It is the world’s biggest polluter and biggest consumer of resources across other measures.
In 2009, nearly 20 per cent of the length of China’s monitored rivers and lakes had pollution worse than Grade 5, making the water unfit for even irrigating crops, according to government statistics.
To double the size of the economy between 2000 and 2020 and keep environmental conditions at 2000 levels, China will have to improve its efficiency in using resources by four or five times compared with 2000 levels, said Zhou, citing findings of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
2011-03-18 13:46 编辑：红木梳子
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