China misses efficiency, pollution goals in "grim" 2006
BEIJING, Jan 10 (Reuters) - China last year missed its goals of making a 4 percent cut in the amount of energy it uses to generate each dollar of national income and of reducing emissions of major pollutants, a top official said on Wednesday. The failure to curb the country's appetite for energy will be a blow to top officials, who backed the challenging goal with a raft of new policies including tying civil servants' career prospects to their energy saving achievements. "2006 has been the most grim year for China's environmental situation," vice minister Pan Yue was quoted saying on the Web site of the State Environmental Protection Administration (www.sepa.gov.cn). "The goals set out by the cabinet at the start of the year, of cutting energy intensity by 4 percent and emissions of pollutants by 2 percent have absolutely not been achieved." He did not say by how much China missed the goals, but in the first half of the year, energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product actually rose 0.8 percent. Figures are not yet available for the second half of the year. China has become the world's top emitter of acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide, with emissions rising 27 percent from 2000 to 2005, mostly from coal-burning power stations. Pollution in northern cities is compounded by heavy use of use of coal for cooking and heating, automobile exhaust fumes and construction dust. Only Beijing and five other regions, out of the country's 31 provinces and self-governing cities, managed to meet the state-set goals, the official China Daily reported, without citing a source or naming the other success stories. However as the target was only set in March, and the first government measures to enforce it unveiled later, more provinces may fall in line during 2007, particularly as leaders are pushing hard for more sustainable growth. Officials are worried about China's economic vulnerability as its demand for oil outpaces domestic production capacity. The country gets nearly half its crude from abroad, and while it has vast coal reserves, use of the dirty-burning fuel creates other problems from acid rain to deadly smog. "Energy problems have become an important factor hampering our economic and social development. We must treat energy saving as a strategic issue," the cabinet said in a statement published last September by state media. China's central bank is currently working with the State Environmental Protection Administration on a new credit evaluation system that could see firms with poor environmental records being turned down for loans, the China Daily said.
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