Issue Date: March 12, 2012
China Focuses On Environment
At China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing last week, government leaders lowered their targets for economic growth and declared a heightened focus on the environment. The congress, China’s parliament, meets once a year for two weeks.
In delivering the government’s annual Work Report at the Congress’ opening on March 5, Premier Wen Jiabao set China’s economic growth target for 2015 at 7.5%, the first time since 2005 that the goal has been below 8%. The Chinese economy grew more than 9% in 2011 and more than 10% in 2010.
China is aiming for lower growth for several reasons, including inflation containment. Sustainability is another goal. Wen said he hopes that lower economic growth will contribute to “making economic development more sustainable and efficient, so as to achieve higher-level, higher-quality development over a longer period.”
On the environmental front, Wen announced that China will start monitoring fine particulate matter in the air of major cities. The government also will raise the price that it charges for water. The premier’s announcement comes a few weeks after the Ministry of Water Resources said it will spend more than $22 billion on water conservation projects this year.
Water is cheap in China compared with other countries, says Debra Tan, director of China Water Risk, a Hong Kong-based nongovernmental organization that advocates for more efficient water use. “The price of water should be three to five times what it is today.”
China’s National Development & Reform Commission disclosed during the Congress that the country failed in 2011 to meet about half of the government’s targets for energy consumption, air quality, and water pollution. But 2011 was the first year of a 2011–15 plan, Tan says, and the targets for 2015 will probably be met.
“There were no targets in the past,” she says. Notably, last year, China set targets for heavy metals in water, which were not measured previously, Tan adds.
Read about pollution of Chinese rivers at http://cenm.ag/env69.
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