BEIJING, March 17 China pledged on Sunday that
it will make sure that 60 percent of its cities meet national
pollution standards by 2020, with pressure growing to make
cities liveable as hundreds of millions of migrants are expected
to relocate from the countryside.
China's environmental problems such as pollution and water
scarcity are expected to intensify as rapid migration pushes
urban infrastructures to the limit. Almost all Chinese cities
monitored for pollution last year failed to meet the standards.
The environment has emerged as a key priority amid growing
public disquiet about smog, dwindling and polluted water
supplies and the contamination of farmland. Poor air quality is
estimated to end hundreds of thousands of lives prematurely each
year and has led to a series of riots and public protests.
The pledge to clean up the nation's major metropolitan
centres was made in a State Council plan for how to deal with
China's rapid urbanisation drive.
"We will improve and promote green, sustainable and low
carbon development in the urbanisation process, enforcing the
strictest measures on ecological and environmental systems," the
According to the State Council, 60 percent of the cities
will meet national air quality standards in 2020, which it said
was up from 40 percent in 2012.
However, at China's annual parliamentary session earlier
this month, officials said only three of 74 major cities met the
pollution standards in 2013.
The State Council plan outlined a lengthy list of policies
it will implement to meet the target, including boosting
renewable energy use, curbing emission-intensive industries and
taking the most-polluting vehicles off the roads.
China will also set up a tiered pricing system for
electricity, natural gas and water, to control rapid growth in
consumption of scarce natural resources.
The government plans to roll out trading systems for carbon
and air pollutant emissions, energy-saving certificates and
water to provide economic incentives to reduce waste.
China has already picked seven key regions to launch pilot
carbon trading schemes with the intention of setting up a
national market to cut emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45
percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
Guangdong province has already launched an emissions trading
scheme, along with the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and
China is also seeking to ensure it has enough labour in its
vast farming sector to guarantee food security, with rural
worker shortages one of the country's biggest challenges.
The State Council plan restated China's commitment to
protect agricultural land from further urban and industrial
encroachment, a policy known as its "red line." It promised more
state investment in major food-producing regions, improved
insurance coverage in rural areas and reforms to the pricing
systems of major agricultural commodities.
It also promised to raise farming mechanisation rates to
around 70 percent from current levels of 60 percent.
(Reporting by Kathy Chen, Stian Reklev and David Stanway;
Editing by Tom Hogue)