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'Energy Targets Are in Reach'
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China is capable of meeting new pollution reduction and energy saving targets by 2010, according to Niu Wenyuan, a counsellor of the State Council.


"It is a tough task, but we see the high possibility to realize the goal," Niu told China Daily yesterday in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the annual session of the National Committee of the CPPCC.


China wants to reduce pollution by 10 percent and downsize the energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 percent within three years.


Niu's remarks were in response to growing nationwide concerns that China would not meet its targets after falling short of them last year.


The goal last year was to cut chemical oxygen demand (COD), a water pollution index, and sulphur dioxide emissions by 2 percent and cut energy consumption per unit of GDP by 4 percent.


However, statistics from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) reveal that COD reached 14.31 million tons last year, up 1.2 percent from the previous year and sulfur dioxide emissions increased by 1.8 percent compared to 2005.


The energy consumption per unit of GDP dropped only by 1.2 percent.


"It is impossible to see immediately results in the first year or two, since reducing pollution and energy consumption is a very complicated and long process," Niu said, who is also the head of the Sustainable Development and Strategy Group of the Chinese Academy of Science.


"It's inappropriate to simply divide the five-year targets evenly in five years."


He predicted that substantial improvements were unlikely to be recorded until 2008.


Niu attributed increased emission rates and energy consumption to China's fast economic development and "irrational" economic structure.


Last year, China's economy grew by 10.7 percent.


Demand for coal grew by 230 million tons, resulting in the release of 2.8 million tons of sulphur dioxide from coal burning, according to the SEPA.


The existing economic structure relies heavenly on energy consumption. Industries such as steel, oil, chemical, metallurgy, paper-making, printing and dying, and building materials consume huge amounts of energy contributing to the amount of emissions.


Niu called for innovations in five major areas to include better supervision and technology upgrades to reverse the current culture of polluting and high energy consumption.


"Measures such as the installation of sulphur dioxide scrubbing facilities should be made compulsory to avoid excessive emission of sulphur dioxide by all coal power generation stations," he said.


Small power stations with outdated technology and high emission rates should also be closed, he added.


China should try to gradually replace coal with more environmentally friendly options such as hydropower, natural gas and solar power, he said.


"I am confident for the long term target as the Chinese government is strengthening its efforts to cope with issues," he said.


SEPA officials pledged last month that a series of new rules and regulations for industry were expected this year.


(China Daily March 8, 2007)


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