China makes fresh promises on air pollution, pledges support for solar

SHANGHAI Sat Jun 15, 2013 12:43am EDT

A statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of buildings during a hazy day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of buildings during a hazy day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, May 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's cabinet approved new measures to combat air pollution on Friday, in the latest step by China's new leadership to address the country's enormous environmental problems, with pollution a key source of rising social discontent in China.

The government also promised to support China's troubled solar power industry, despite problems with overcapacity and ongoing trade disputes with the United States and Europe.

In a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, the State Council approved 10 anti-pollution measures, the council said in a statement posted on its website late Friday.

In particular, the State Council promised to:

- Accelerate the installation of pollution control equipment on small, coal-fuelled refineries.

- Curb the growth of high-energy-consuming industries like steel, cement, aluminum, and glass.

- Reduce emissions per unit of GDP in key industries by at least 30 percent by the end of 2017.

- Improve indicators used to evaluate the environmental impact of new projects and deny administrative approvals, financing, land, and other support to projects that fail to meet high standards.

- Strengthen enforcement and collection of fees and penalties that companies pay based on their emissions.

- Use legal action to force industries to upgrade pollution controls and establish or revise industry-level emissions standards.

The country's new top leaders, who took power in a once-in-a-decade political transition late last year, have promised to tackle China's pollution problem. The government has made similar promises over the last decade, but enforcement has often been lacking, especially at the local level.

Protests over pollution are becoming more frequent in China, as the country's increasingly affluent urban population begins to object to the model of growth at all costs that has fueled the economy for three decades.

Friday's State Council statement also acknowledged difficulties afflicting China's solar industry but pledged to maintain support for the industry through "reformed methods".

Specific measures include price support for the sale of photovoltaic electricity to electricity grids and requiring grid operators to purchase all the electricity that solar generators produce.

(Reporting by Gabriel Wildau; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Comments (2)
MikeBarnett wrote:
At the Durban Climate Change Conference in 2011, China presented a $1.7 trillion, 22 point, 5 year plan ($340 billion per year) to deal with pollution in China. The first major results should be seen by the middle of 2014 and continue through 2016 when a new 5 year pollution plan should start. Most of the proposals in this article appeared in the 2011 plan, so change is coming. Unfortunately, it requires time to show serious results. However, one reason for Xi Jinping’s election as president is his degree in chemical engineering. He has the training to administer this program, unlike western political hacks. The entire Chinese politburo consists of scientists, engineers, and technicians. China’s leaders have always said that they would solve environmental problems when their economy allowed them to do so without causing economic hardships on their people. China started the program in 2011, but the damages of 30 years of rapid, continental scale, economic growth cannot be corrected immediately. This comment points out that a second 5 year pollution plan should follow in 2016.

One example to consider is a 2001 continental scale irrigation plan to move water, naturally desalinated by typhoons, from China’s east and south coasts where it was not needed to China’s northern, central, and western provinces where it was needed. This has allowed irrigation for agriculture and for aquaculture in the canals, rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs. Western idiots made stupid comments about the plan, but in 2011 and 2012, droughts, fires, and heat forced the US to buy food from China. I have frozen vegetables and canned fish from China in my home in Texas. President Hu Jintao has a degree in hydraulic engineering, and he was elected to oversee this massive project that, along with land reclamation, will allow China to feed 3 to 4 billion people by 2020 to 2025. As the US, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Australia become polluted deserts, China will gain influence with those nations that want to eat. Given China’s resources and determination, it is likely that the pollution plans will work as well as the irrigation and land reclamation plans. We will see the answers more clearly by the end of this decade.

Jun 15, 2013 1:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Oro_Invictus wrote:
Oh, who are they even kidding anymore; the CPC has utterly failed in preventing cataclysmic environmental degradation despite repeated “promises” to mitigate such damage. Now, with their hare-brained forced urbanization scheme? Just look up the losses of arable land the PRC is experiencing right now, before their latest urbanization drive begins in earnest; it’ll only get worse. It’s astonishing how poor the CPC’s grasp of negative regulatory effects of population density, urban vs. rural resource and waste utilization/production, and basic sustainability is.

Best case scenario? The PRC becomes almost totally dependant on nations like the US and Brazil for food resources. Worst case? The PRC plunges itself into a level of destitution heretofore unseen on such a scale in human history.

Jun 15, 2013 1:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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