China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Civil servants in China must do without

By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press WriterTue Jun 13, 9:00 AM ET

China ordered civil servants to do without cars, elevators and air conditioning Tuesday as part of an energy-saving awareness campaign.

The government targeted its employees with the one-day ban so that they could serve as an example to others, the official China Daily newspaper said, and because they use so much energy: the 7 million civil servants consume about 5 percent of the country's total electricity a year — equal to the amount consumed by 780 million farmers.

The order came on the heels of distressing news. China relies on coal for two-thirds of its energy needs, and pollution from generating plants and ill-regulated factories are fouling the air. In the past week, senior officials have warned that China's already degraded environment is deteriorating further and that targets to increase energy efficiency were in danger of slipping.

But the energy-saving day didn't prove popular. The China Daily said China's Cabinet, the State Council, gave the order, telling central government employees to leave their cars at home, to take stairs instead of elevators and to keep the air conditioning off.

When asked about the order and if officials were complying, the information office of the State Council refused to confirm the ban, referring queries to the National Development and Reform Commission, which develops energy policy. Commission officials did not respond to a request for details.

At the State Family Planning Commission, "a few hundred people" were following the directive, said Chen Bingshu in the agency's public affairs department. Some, she said, were climbing as many as seven flights of stairs to get to their offices.

But not Chen. She said she flouted the rules and drove her car to and from work because she needed to nurse her 6-month-old daughter at lunchtime and wanted to conserve time in the commute.

The conservation message seemingly did not even reach its natural constituency: the State Environmental Protection Administration. An officer in the public affairs department, who would only give his surname, Li, said no one had informed the agency about the campaign.

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