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UPDATED: March 7, 2011
New Energy Targets to Produce a Greener Nation

China pledged to use energy more efficiently, emit less greenhouse gases to power healthier economic growth, and expand its pollution control scheme to tackle environmental problems during the next five years.

The draft of the government's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday, revealed plans to slash energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions for each unit of economic growth by 16 percent and 17 percent respectively.

The country also aims to increase the use of clean energy by raising the percentage of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 11.4 percent from 8.3 percent in 2010.

The draft will be reviewed by the National People's Congress (NPC) and National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in the coming days.

The targets are part of the country's wider plan to reduce carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels as a key part of the fight against climate change, a pledge made by the premier.

The energy and carbon intensity targets are in accord with the scenario mapped out by the International Energy Agency to stabilize the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, said Wu Changhua, greater China director of The Climate Group in Beijing.

The agency said the concentration of carbon dioxide should be kept under 450 parts per million, a bottom line to save the planet from catastrophic disasters caused by rises in temperature.

However, other environmentalists are worried the targets might be too weak to rein in runaway economic expansion at provincial level.

From 2006 to 2010, China reduced energy consumption per unit of GDP by 19.1 percent, according to Wen, only "close to" its 20-percent target set out for the five years. But the country registered an annual economic growth rate of 11 percent despite a 7.5-percent target during the same period.

To reverse that trend and improve the quality of development, Greenpeace proposed that local governments should not exceed the growth target set by the top leaders, and meanwhile look at the energy and environmental goals as a minimum request.

China still has space to further improve its energy efficiency, because the country's energy intensity now stands 1.5 times higher than the average level in developed nations, said NPC deputy Hu Weiwu, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

But others disagree. Pan Jiahua, a senior researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argued that China has already paid a huge price in the last five years to improve energy efficiency. Radical cuts would only reduce the public's quality of life.

In 2011, China aims to reduce both carbon and energy intensity by about 3.5 percent compared with last year, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a report on its website.

The five-year blueprint also sets a target to slash emissions of major pollutants by 8 to 10 percent by 2015. But it did not provide details.

(China Daily March 6, 2011)

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