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Soaring oil prices worldwide and increasingly serious pollution caused by inefficient use of energy is apparently strangling China's economic development and social progress.


In such circumstances, never before has the central government felt the necessity of enforcing a tough measure to rid local governments of their hesitancy in fulfilling the energy-saving quota as required by the national development plan.


The scheme designed by relevant central government departments to assess how localities fulfill their quotas of saving energy and reducing the discharge of pollutants was adopted by the State Council on Friday and will be carried out from next year. The scheme sets scores for provincial, autonomous regions, municipality governments as well as major State-owned enterprises.


They are required to report to the central government how they have completed their energy saving quotas and how well they have carried out the required measures for doing so. The panel will then calculate the score a local government will get. The leaders of those getting a score of less than 60 are likely to lose their positions.


The country's 11th Five-Year-Plan (2006-10) requires that the consumption of energy per unit GDP should be reduced by 20 percent and the total amount of pollutants discharged by 10 percent.


However, the consumption of energy per unit GDP was reduced by just 1.23 percent and pollutants discharged increased last year. In the first six months of this year, the per unit GDP energy used was reduced by 2.78 percent compared with the same period last year while pollutants discharged started to decline.


The new assessment scheme will make local governments realize how important energy saving should be on their agendas. The central government means it this time as the scheme stipulates that local leaders must be held accountable for failing to fulfill their quotas.


What is worth mentioning is the stipulation that local officials will be seriously dealt with if cheating is discovered in the reported statistics, and those who are held directly responsible will likely be put in jail.


With the central government's resolve to realize the energy-saving goal, we have reason to believe the new assessment scheme will shift the attention of local governments from economic growth only to sustainable, environment-friendly development.


(China Daily November 26, 2007)


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