China's Xi urges end to waste and irrational consumption in eco push - Xinhua

FILE PHOTO: People wearing masks dance amid heavy smog during a polluted day at a square in Fuyang, Anhui province, China January 3, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s President Xi Jinping said the country must fight against waste and irrational consumption as it bids to reverse the damage done to its environment after decades of breakneck growth, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

Xi said at a meeting that while China had made great progress in fighting against pollution, the achievements so far had not yet been fully “consolidated”.

“We must speed up the construction of a system of ecological civilization and ensure that the ecology and environment is fundamentally improved by the year 2035, and that our goal of building a beautiful China is basically achieved,” he said.

China had now reached a critical period when it came to protecting the environment, with public expectations growing, Xi added.

China launched a war on pollution in 2014 in a bid to head off growing public discontent about the damage done to the country’s skies, water and soil since the economy began opening up in 1978.

It has since launched a series of campaigns aimed at curbing industrial pollution, improving environmental law enforcement and boosting emission standards and clean energy use.

China managed to bring average concentrations of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 down 6.5 percent last year, but it remains significantly higher than the national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter, especially in smog-prone northern regions.

China’s environment ministry warned last month that the battle against smog had reached a “stalemate” and experts have called for more targeted measures to improve air quality further.

Reporting by David Stanway, Editing by William Maclean