China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Friday, January 19, 2007

China to tackle pollution and curb use of energy

The Hearld News JOE McDONALD BEIJING CHINA is launching a multibillion-dollar effort to cut pollution and soaring coal and oil demand, by raising energy efficiency in flats and offices.

Authorities are tightening standards and threatening to revoke developers' business licences if they fail to comply, said Qiu Baoxing, a Deputy Construction Minister.

The Communist government has made enforcing environmental and energy standards a priority in an effort to clean up damage from its 20-year-old economic boom, and to reduce reliance on imported fuel.

Qiu said yesterday: "Construction of energy-intensive buildings is a huge waste and has become an obstacle to national development.

"For China to act in compliance with energy efficiency is important to achieving its goal of creating a resource-saving society."

China is one of the biggest consumers of oil, gas and coal, and is the least energy-efficient major economy, using several times as much fuel for each unit of output compared with the United States, Japan or European countries.

Its cities are among the world's most smoggy, partly due to coal-fired power plants, which supply factories, shops, homes and offices.

Cement factories and steel mills that supply the construction industry are among China's biggest polluters.

The government is also trying to rein in surging emissions from China's booming car market, by imposing taxes on fuel-intensive luxury cars and sports utility vehicles.

All new buildings in China will have to cut energy consumption for heating, lighting and air conditioning by 50%, or by 65% in more prosperous cities, Qiu said.

Owners of existing flats, office towers and other buildings will have to improve efficiency with better insulation, low-energy lighting and other steps, he said.

Owners are expected to spend an estimated £100bn on improvements by 2020, and Beijing is considering offering subsidies or tax breaks to help with the cost, Qiu said.

The tighter standards will create a tremendous market for energy-saving technology and renovation work, he said.

Construction accounts for 27% of China's total energy consumption - a figure that is rising by about one percentage point a year as incomes rise and families buy bigger homes, according to Qiu.

A Construction Ministry survey completed in December 2006 found that only 53% of new buildings met energy-efficiency rules, while 58 real estate projects were violating them, Qiu said.

"Some developers might lose their business licence," he said.

In an effort to learn from other countries' experiences, China is to host an international conference in March on "intelligent, green and energy-efficient" buildings.

Experts from the United States, Singapore, India and elsewhere are due to attend.

The government proposals were delivered as it emerged that one-third of all fish species in the Yellow River, China's second longest river, have become extinct because of dams, shrinking water levels, overfishing and pollution.

The 3395-mile river, which supplies water to over 150 million people and irrigates 15% of the country's farmland, was once known as "China's sorrow" because of its flooding, but in recent years has occasionally run dry.

An Agriculture Ministry official said: "The Yellow River used to be host to more than 150 species of fish, but one-third of them are now extinct, including some precious ones."

Fishing has also dropped, falling 40% from an annual average of 700 tonnes in the past.

The official said: "It can be mainly blamed on hydropower projects that block fishes' migration routes, declining water flow caused by scarce rainfall, overfishing and severe pollution."

China has been engaged in construction of hydropower plants, with an official mindset in which the energy and economic benefits of the dams easily outweigh negative environmental impact.

The country's economic boom has also peppered its rivers with factories, many of which lack the proper treatment facilities for waste water.

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