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The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is reportedly planning to make energy consumption a compulsory index for local officials' career assessment.

Officials' performance in meeting pollutant emission and farmland conservation criteria will also be taken into account by the assessment.

The new policy means local officials will not be promoted if their area uses excessive amounts of energy to achieve economic growth, no matter how well they perform in other respects.

This may prove to be the most effective method to rein in runaway energy consumption as the country's gross domestic product growth soars.

Local officials used to care little about the environmental consequences of their local economic development plans. This did not matter at the time. All that was important was the GDP growth they managed to notch up, as this was the most important factor in deciding their future career prospects.

For that reason, it is often a matter of political will, not technology or expertise, to adhere to the cause of energy saving. Once governments are forced to care more about the efficiency of GDP growth in terms of energy consumption, they will become as capable of saving energy as maximizing GDP figures.

The country's 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-10) calls for overall consumption of energy for per unit of GDP to be cut by 20 percent in five years.

The new move by the NDRC is part of the national drive to implement that requirement.

Local authorities have realized the importance of taking applicable measures to force down energy consumption, which would greatly menace China's sustainable economic development if the current trends go checked.

The country can only meet its energy saving targets when local governments take the national energy consumption goal seriously.

The authorities in Guangdong have said they will publish figures for energy and power consumption per unit of GDP every six months to enhance officials' awareness of this issue.

In Beijing, energy consumption per unit of GDP was reduced last year by 3.9 percent compared to 2004. In the first quarter this year, Beijing further reduced the index by 8.5 percent year-on-year.

It is notable that both are prosperous regions with ever-expanding GDP growth, which indicates they have made successful efforts in improving the efficiency of energy use.

More parts of the country, especially western China, where energy efficiency is much lower, must follow suit to help achieve the national energy-saving goal.

(China Daily June 15, 2006)

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