* China to close more outdated industry in pollution fight
* Premier vows to "change way energy is produced"
* China also to tackle agricultural, water pollution
(Adds comment from analyst, detail)
BEIJING, March 5 China is to "declare war" on
pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday at the opening
of the annual meeting of parliament, with the government
unveiling detailed measures to tackle what has become a
hot-button social issue.
It is not uncommon for air pollution in parts of China to
breach levels considered by some experts to be hazardous. That
has drawn much public ire and is a worry for the government,
which fears any discontent that might compromise stability.
"We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we
declared war against poverty," Li told the almost 3,000
delegates to the country's largely rubber-stamp legislature in a
wide-ranging address carried live on state television.
Curbing pollution has become a key part of efforts to
upgrade the economy, shift the focus away from heavy industry
and tackle the perennial problem of overcapacity, with Li
describing smog as "nature's red-light warning against
inefficient and blind development".
"This is an acknowledgement at the highest level that there
is a crisis," said Craig Hart, expert on Chinese environmental
policy and associate professor at China's Renmin University.
"Their approach is going to have to be pro-economy. I think
they will pump money into upgrading plants. This could be
another green stimulus although it is not being packaged that
China has published a series of policies and plans aimed at
addressing environmental problems but it has long struggled to
bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local
governments to heel.
Li said efforts would focus first on reducing hazardous
particulate matter known as PM 2.5 and PM 10 and would also be
aimed at eliminating outdated energy producers and industrial
plants, the source of much air pollution.
China will cut outdated steel production capacity by a total
of 27 million tonnes this year, slash cement production by 42
million tonnes, and also shut down 50,000 small coal-fired
furnaces across the country, Li said.
The 27 million tonnes of steel, equivalent to Italy's
production capacity, amounts to less than 2.5 percent of China's
total, and industry officials have warned that plants with
another 30 million tonnes of annual output went into
construction last year.
The targeted cement closures amount to less than 2 percent
of last year's total production.
The battle against pollution will also be waged via reforms
in energy pricing to boost non-fossil fuel power. Li promised
change in "the way energy is consumed and produced" through the
development of nuclear and renewables, the deployment of smart
power transmission grids, and the promotion of green and
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the
country's economic planner, said in its report that new
guidelines would be issued on relocating key industries away
from urban centres to help tackle smog.
NOT JUST SMOG
China does not just suffer from smog, which has once again
this winter enveloped large parts of the heavily populated east,
and will this year also aim to tackle severe water and soil
The NDRC said it would also take action this year to tackle
agricultural pollution, including the contamination of farmland
by heavy metals, with 3.33 million hectares (8 million acres)
believed to be too polluted to grow crops.
Last month, the government said it would spend 2 trillion
yuan ($330 billion) on tackling pollution of scarce water
Li said China would also aim to convert 333,300 hectares of
marginal farmland to forest and grassland and would continue to
fight desertification and recover wetlands.
The NDRC said China would seek to ensure that polluters pay
by establishing a new mechanism to compensate victims of
environmental damage and by holding local officials accountable.
Parliament is also mulling amendments to environmental
protection legislation that will grant new powers to fine and
In a separate report on Wednesday, the Ministry of Finance
said China would spend 21.1 billion yuan on energy conservation
and environmental protection in 2014, up 7.1 percent on 2013. It
said 64.9 billion yuan would be allocated to agriculture,
forestry and water conservation, up 8.6 percent.
(Reporting by Michael Martina, Li Hui, David Stanway and Stian
Reklev; Writing by Ben Blanchard and David Stanway; Editing by
Raju Gopalakrishnan and Robert Birsel)