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Premier gets tough in pollution fight

Zhao Yinan
Updated: Mar 6,2015 6:31 AM     China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang delivers the government work report during the opening meeting of the third session of China’s 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 5, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Great Hall of the People in Beijing used to hear loud applause for leaders announcing ambitious economic plans.

This changed on March 5, when Premier Li Keqiang earned the biggest applause from the National People’s Congress for his pledge of tough environmental protection measures.

In his annual Government Work Report to China’s lawmakers at the opening of their 2015 plenary session, the premier called pollution a “blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts”.

He promised to build a more effective environmental regime in a country plagued by frequent smog and other types of pollution from industrial operations.

The NPC’s opening event was attended by nearly 3,000 lawmakers and more than 2,000 political advisers, who will discuss and finalize the overall program for the nation’s 2015 social and economic development.

After announcing China’s major economic targets for this year-with the GDP growth rate adjusted to 7 percent from 7.5 percent last year-the premier said the nation will cut its use of energy, as measured by energy intensity, by 3.1 percent while reducing the discharge of all key pollutants.

Carbon dioxide intensity will be cut by at least 3.1 percent, reducing both chemical oxygen demand and ammonia nitrogen emissions by about 2 percent, and reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide by around 3 percent and nitrogen oxides by about 5 percent.

Li also pledged to enforce environmental laws and regulations, to crack down on illegal emissions, to ensure heavy penalties are handed out to offenders, and to hold officials who allow illegal emissions accountable for their irresponsible conduct.

Chen Jining, the newly appointed minister of environmental protection, echoed the premier by telling reporters that his main duty is to reinforce the pollution control laws.

Only eight of the 74 major Chinese cities subject to air quality monitoring of PM2.5 met the national standard for clear air last year, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Li also pledged that the government will promote the use of new-energy vehicles, reduce vehicle exhaust emissions, raise the national fuel quality standard and provide higher-quality gasoline and diesel. All highly polluting vehicles registered before 2005 will be banned from the roads.

Xu Shaoshi, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning body, said energy consumption per unit of GDP value fell by 4.8 percent and carbon intensity by 6.2 percent last year, the best result in terms of energy saving since 2011. China has pledged previously that carbon emissions will peak “around 2030”.

Chen Guoying, an NPC deputy and environmental protection director from Hebei, said the province, notorious for its excessive steelmaking capacity and smog, is making its most serious effort to fight pollution.

Zheng Jinran contributed to this story.

Friday’s agenda

9am: Group discussion on Government Work Report

10am: Lou Jiwei, minister of finance, and LiuKun, vice-minister of finance, to hold news conference on financial work and fiscal and taxation reform

3pm: Group discussion on the Government Work Report

4pm: Yu Xinrong, vice-minister of agriculture, and other officials from his ministry to hold news conference on speeding up the building of modern agriculture

At a glance (new concepts from the premier’s Government Work Report)

·Internet-based finance rose swiftly to prominence. E-commerce, logistics, express delivery services and other emerging businesses developed rapidly.

We have seen creators coming thick and fast, and the cultural and creative industries have been developing with great vitality.

·Serious efforts were made to prevent food contamination.

·Some government officials are neglectful of their duties, holding on to their jobs while failing to fulfill their responsibilities.

·To deal simultaneously with the slow down in economic growth, making difficult structural adjustments, and absorbing the effects of the previous economist imulus policies.

·It goes without saying that powers should not be held without good reason.

·Support the development of large family farming businesses, family farm sand pastures, farmers’ cooperatives, leading agriculture enterprises, and other emerging agribusinesses; cultivate a new type of skilled farmer; and develop diversified and scaled agriculture operations.

·We will implement the “Made in China 2025” strategy, seek innovation-driven development; apply smart technologies; strengthen foundations; pursue green development; and redouble our efforts to upgrade China from a manufacturer of quantity to one of quality.

·Develop the “Internet Plus” action plan to integrate the mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things with modern manufacturing.

·Zero growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country.

·To simplify customs clearance procedures.