Experts urged the government to take a proactive approach towards resource conservation to ensure sustainability in China's economy.
Responding to the 2005 economic blueprint, they said resource-saving should become the government's major lever for macroeconomic control.
Instead of mainly relying on exploiting resources, the government should launch a public campaign to save them, said R.C. Lao, a senior Canadian expert on social and economic development.
"As the resources are getting scarce, the Chinese Government must take a firm and positive stand to encourage the reduction of wasteful action," said Lao, the resident project manager of the Canada-China Project on Cleaner Production under the Canadian International Development Agency.
He said an aggressive target should be set every year until the end of 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) to save resources while sustaining the relatively rapid growth of the economy.
"The urgency of saving resources also resulted from the fact that China's cost for national gross domestic product (GDP) growth is one of the highest in the world, including the energy and material consumption associated with it," said Lao.
The country must adopt a model characterized by low consumption of natural resources, control of environmental pollution, and efficient deployment of human resources, Lao said.
Lao suggested that international experience in power consumption should be borrowed as China's power generation industry accounts for most of the fuel production and produces a majority of the air pollution.
He said so-called "energy smart" programmes implemented around the world should be actively pursued in China.
"The essence of the programmes is that the government should concretely encourage energy-saving actions and even provide financial incentives to help users save electricity," said Lao.
Fortunately, a plan is ready. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last week made public a medium- and long-term energy savings plan.
With an annual savings rate of 3 per cent, China's energy consumption could reach 3 billion tons of standard coal by 2020.
Lao's suggestions were echoed by visiting scholar Zhang Jianyu, who said next year is critical for policy-makers to present a clear but scientific roadmap for the nation.
"Personally speaking, 2005 will be a year for us to look back because that's an important step for us to go ahead," said Zhang, also head of the Beijing office of the US-based non-governmental organization Environmental Defence.
Instead of just government departments, other social forces should have access to the 10th Five Year Plan in 2005, said Zhang, adding that his office will invest some energy to review the government's efforts in environmental protection between 2001-05.
(China Daily December 7, 2004)