China discharged 25.49 million tons of sulfur dioxide in 2005, topping the world's list, said the country's national environmental watchdog Thursday at a news conference.
The amount is 27 percent over that in 2000, said the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), noting that 21.684 million tons came from industrial discharge and 3.89 million tons from living discharge.
Each ton of the discharge may cause 20,000 yuan (about US$2,500) of economic losses, said Li Xinmin, deputy director of SEPA's air pollution department.
Calculating on that basis, China may have suffered a total loss of 509.8 billion yuan (US$63.625 billion) in 2005.
Li said China's coal consumption increased more than 800 million tons in the 2001-2005 period, among which 500 million were wolfed by the power industry.
"Coal accounts for 70 percent of China's energy consumption. This fact is hard to change in a short term," he said.
He explained that 80 percent of the coal is used for direct combustion, and coal-fired power plants have burnt half of the total coal in China, which generates large amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and soot.
The country, with only about 5 million kilowatt capacity of desulfurization facilities put into operation by 2000, has been promoting desulfurization work among thermal power plants.
By the end of 2005, there had been 142 desulfurization projects, either completed or under construction, for major in-service thermal power plants with a total installed capacity of approximately 50 million kilowatts.
In its early Outline of the Eleventh Five-Year (2006-2010) Plan for National Economic and Social Development, China promised a ten percent reduction of the country's total sulfur dioxide emissions by 2010 as compared with the end of the previous five-year period.
To achieve that end, the country's annual sulfur dioxide discharge must be controlled as no more than 22.95 million tons.
"This is a compulsory target," said Li.
SEPA has signed a set of documents with China's six largest electric power companies, who discharge more than 60 percent of the country's total, prompting them to reduce their emission to set levels.
(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2006)