China's reliance on coal for economic growth has made it difficult to curb growing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the central government's first policy statement on climate change. 'Developing the economy and improving people's lives are imperative tasks currently facing China,' the white paper, issued yesterday, says. 'However, its coal-dominated energy mix cannot be substantially changed in the near future, thus making the control of greenhouse gas emissions rather difficult.' The paper highlighted the dilemma faced by China, with social ramifications if it curbed economic growth and the grave environmental consequences of fast development, such as frequent natural disasters, ecological degradation and shrinking harvests. 'Climate change has already brought real threats to China's ecological system and economic and social development,' said Xie Zhenhua , deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission. The 44-page paper lists various adverse consequences of climate change on agriculture, river and sea pollution and social and economic sectors. 'Extreme phenomena, such as high temperatures, heavy precipitation and severe droughts, have increased in frequency and intensity,' it says. If not alleviated, the consequences will reduce grain output, shrink lakes and wetlands, cause desertification of grasslands and livestock epidemics, and accelerate glacial retreat and sea-level rise. However, it is unlikely that China will break its addiction to coal, the cheapest and most plentiful energy source in the country, any time soon. Coal still fuels about two-thirds of China's energy needs. The mainland has set ambitious targets to cut energy waste by 20 per cent and pollution by 10 per cent by 2010. Authorities have closed thousands of small coal mines and coal-fired power plants. Last year, its use of renewable energy - including wind, solar and hydroelectric power - amounted to about 220 million tonnes of coal equivalent, which equals cutting 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. With the promotion of renewable energy, the proportion of coal in the energy mix has fallen by more than 2 per cent in the past three decades, the paper says.