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China Parliamentary Sessions 2015

China makes no new promises in battle to clear the day as it fine-tunes pollution targets

Premier acknowledges air quality issues as he fine-tunes targets in clean-up campaign

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 March, 2015, 1:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 March, 2015, 3:12am

One year after Premier Li Keqiang declared war on pollution, the central government seems to be refraining from making any new promises on the matter this year, focusing instead on following through on all its previously set targets.

The lacklustre report on pollution, delivered by Li at the opening of the National People's Congress' annual full session on Thursday came amid seething public grievances on the smog issue, made more pronounced in recent days by former state television presenter Chai Jing's viral documentary.

Chai's 103-minute video blames China's powerful oil companies and weak enforcement for the country's continued pollution woes.

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In his speech, Li admitted that pollution was "a blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighed on their hearts".

He set a wide range of pollution emission targets for the year, repeating a commitment to crack down "with iron fists" on illegal polluters as well as those who failed to properly carry out their supervisory duties.

He also underscored the country's plan to grant greater support the development of new energies - solar, wind, biomass, hydro and nuclear sources - and to limit total energy consumption in what has been promoted as President Xi Jinping's energy-sector revolution.

Guangdong-based lawyer Zhu Lieyu, who is also a national legislator, suggested that the environmental ministry's work should be subjected to the national legislature's annual review so that its officials would be required to produce real results in curbing pollution.

Li Yan, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace East Asia, said that although nothing new was mentioned in the plans and pledges to fight pollution, the central government had in fact adjusted upwards the pollution and energy targets for this year.

The central government was now also more proactive in promoting the use of cleaner energies, if one read the premier's speech closely, she added.

"There has been enough talk from the top leadership. It's now time to convert the words into real actions," she said.

According to an annual report from the National Development and Reform Commission that was published at the legislature session yesterday, China achieved all its targets to reduce four types of major air and water pollutants last year.

The country's energy intensity - the amount of energy used in producing each unit of economic growth - fell 4.8 per cent last year. A plan to cut the rate by a further 3.1 per cent puts the mainland on track to meeting a 16 per cent decrease in energy intensity over the 2011-2015 period.