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    China Business
     Aug 28, 2007
China pays to save energy

BEIJING - China's government plans to pour billions of dollars into special projects to help meet the country's energy-saving targets. Local officials are also about to come under increased pressure to toe the government line to meet the targets, otherwise their political futures could be in jeopardy.

A top official from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reaffirmed China's commitment to cutting energy use and emissions on making a report to the Standing

Committee of the National People's Congress on Sunday.

"It's vital to cut energy use," Ma Kai, the NDRC minister said. "If we don't hasten our pace, it will be difficult to meet the targets this year."

In the second half of the year, a special fund of 7 billion yuan (US$921 million) will be allocated for 10 major energy reduction projects, including new illumination equipment, reconstruction of fire tube boilers, reuse of heat and the development of petroleum substitutes.

Another 2.5 billion yuan will be used to develop marsh gas facilities in the rural areas, and some 4 billion yuan for the construction of sewage treatment plants in cities.

Ma said the central government will also issue compulsory energy consumption standards for 22 products such as steel, cement, caustic soda and thermal power by the end of the year. NDRC figures show that the country's energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 2.78% in the first six months from the same period a year earlier.

However, the government has set the target of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20% between 2006 and 2010, or an annual decrease of 4%. But it fell only 1.33% last year from 2005. China also failed to achieve its pollution reduction goal, with major pollutants, including sulfur dioxide emissions and chemical oxygen demand (COD) both increasing last year.

In addition, official figures also show that sulfur dioxide emissions dropped 0.88% to 12.63 million tons in the first half of the year; but COD emissions still grew 0.24% to 6.91 million tons from 6.89 million tons. "We can find from the figures that China is still facing serious problems in saving energy and reducing polluting emissions," Ma said.

The minister blamed some local officials for dragging the rest of the country down in not meeting the targets. He said economic growth, especially the growth of industries with high energy consumption and emission of pollutants, was still too rapid, which put more pressure on achieving energy-saving and discharge-reduction goals.

"A series of environmental pollution accidents, such as the outbreak of blue-green algae in China's major lakes - Taihu Lake, Chaohu Lake and the Dianchi Lake - this year have shown how difficult it is to sustain economic and social development if the energy-saving and discharge-reduction problems cannot be solved properly," he said.

He said some local governments still take economic growth as the sole criteria for evaluating officials' performances and they have not introduced energy-saving into their evaluation systems, which is the main reason for difficulties in energy conservation and pollution reduction.

He said the assessments of officials in many places still focused too much on their performance in economic growth, and many cities and counties still lacked concrete plans to cut energy consumption. "We've paid too much attention to economic growth," Ma said. "Serious consequences are revealing themselves."

(Asia Pulse/XIC)

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