Premier Wen Jiabao warned yesterday that the mainland needed to cut its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions urgently and that much tougher action needed to be taken, Xinhua reported. Mr Wen was presiding over the first meeting of a national taskforce created in April to ensure that the mainland's environmental goals are met. The taskforce, the top-level agency responsible for dealing with climate change and greenhouse gas emission reduction, is headed by the premier - a sign of the rising sense of urgency within official ranks on the need to tackle the problems. 'The situation we are facing is very grim,' Xinhua quoted Mr Wen as telling the meeting. 'So we must have a strong sense of crisis and urgency. The work is a test of the government's accountability and also the responsibility China should bear for the international community.' Sending a warning message to local governments over the recent slew of pollution incidents in various provinces, Mr Wen urged governments at all levels to give higher priority to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Wen admitted in his speech that the country's pollution problems were 'outstanding' and that it faced 'many obstacles' to meet the environmental goals set in the latest five-year plan. The mainland set targets to slash its energy consumption per unit of domestic gross product by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2010, and to cut emissions of key water and air pollutants by 10 per cent over the same period. However, the country only lowered its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 1.2 per cent last year - against a goal of 4 per cent - while pollution emission levels rose by two per cent. A Dutch government research body said last month that the mainland's emissions of carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming - surpassed those of the United States by 8 per cent last year. Beijing reacted angrily to the Dutch report, accusing the west of hypocrisy given its continued consumer demand for Chinese-made products, often in factories owned by western corporations taking advantage of cheap labour costs.