China admits 'green' failures
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
The Chinese government admitted yesterday that it had failed to meet almost half of the environmental targets it set itself six years ago.
Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, owned up after a fortnight in which Beijing has experienced some of its worst pollution for years.
He told a national conference on environmental protection that "lack of awareness, insufficient planning, illogical industrial structure and a weak legal framework" were all reasons why the country was falling behind on eight of 20 measures set out in 2000.
These included the release of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, the discharge of industrial solid waste, and improving the treatment of waste water.
At the same time, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) issued a report saying that China had doubled its consumption of the world's resources, on a per person basis, since 1961. It also cited a survey of big business which claimed that many companies broke environmental laws.
The government has set great store by its plan to "re-order" China's development away from increasing economic growth towards sustainable development.
The consequences of China's environmental devastation have been plain to see this month in the capital. On two occasions smog has been so bad that the government has issued warnings that children should be kept indoors.
This week, the worst dust storms in five years, caused by desertification in the north-west of the country and unusual climate conditions, swept across northern China, into Korea, and even into Japan.
The 11th five-year plan, announced last autumn, decrees that energy consumption per unit of GDP is to be cut by 20 per cent by 2010; major pollutants by 10 per cent and forest cover is to increase.
Dermot O'Gorman, WWF's representative in China, said despite its economic growth, the country's use of resources per head remained a third of that in western Europe and a seventh of that in North America.
The question was what would happen if growth continued, he said.