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Premier vows to 'declare war against pollution'

Updated: 2014-03-06 01:14
By Wu Wencong ( China Daily)

Building China into a beautiful homeland with a sound ecological environment was highlighted among issues concerning people's livelihood in Premier Li Keqiang's Government Work Report, delivered to the National People's Congress on Wednesday.

With dense smog and haze covering more than 1.8 million square kilometers in February, and 3.33 million hectares of the country's arable land, almost the size of Belgium, contaminated as revealed by an official soil survey in December, Li vowed to "declare war against pollution and fight it with the same determination we battled poverty".

"We will strengthen energy conservation and emissions reduction and impose a ceiling on total energy consumption. This year, we aim to cut energy intensity by more than 3.9 percent," he said.

Energy intensity refers to a measure of a nation's energy consumption as it relates to GDP. The higher the energy intensity rating, the higher the cost of converting energy to GDP. The energy intensity reduction in 2013 was 3.7 percent, as mentioned in Li's report.

This criteria was one of the four targets, all environmentally related, that fell short of the original standards set to help the country achieve its social and economic development goals by 2015, according to a report released in December by the National Development and Reform Commission.

"To reach the 2015 target of a 16-percent reduction in energy consumption per unit of domestic gross product compared with the 2010 level, the factor has to drop by about 3.5 percent every year consecutively," said Zhou Dadi, vice-chairman of the China Energy Research Society.

He said that because the energy intensity drop in 2011 and 2012 did not meet the 3.5 percent standard, it will now require extra efforts to ensure the 2015 goal can be reached.

"It is a tough task, but it is still achievable as long as local governments stop focusing mainly on GDP growth," said Zhou.

Li also mentioned continuing to raise the proportion of electricity generated by non-fossil fuel, another one of the four goals that fell short of the 2015 social and economic development targets during the National Development and Reform Commission's midterm evaluation about two months ago.

Zhou said it is an even tougher task to raise the proportion of nonfossil fuel consumption because it depends on the growth rate of the country's GDP, the reduction of its energy intensity, and control of total energy consumption.

Strengthening exploration, exploitation and use of natural gas, coal seam gas and shale gas is particularly emphasized in Li's report.

"The demand for natural gas, both conventional and unconventional, has been boosted due to the frequent smog and the ongoing urbanization," said Zhou. "About 30 percent of the current natural gas comes from the international market, and China should promote domestic production to meet the huge demand while maintaining the proportion of imports."

In a bid to fully implement the action plan for preventing and controlling airborne pollution, issued by the State Council in September, Li addressed several new policies regarding the polluting coal-related industries.

"This year, 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces will be shut down, and we will carry out desulfurization in coal-burning power plants with production capacity of 15 million kilowatts, denitrification in plants with 130 million kilowatts of production capacity, and dust removal in those with 180 million kilowatts of production capacity," he said.

Du Minghua, deputy director of the Beijing Research Institute of China Shenhua Coal to Liquid and Chemical Corp, said: "Other than shutting down these furnaces, reforming them is also important. With the most advanced technology now, the energy consumption can be reduced by 30 percent at most."

Lyu Chang contributed to this story.