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Challenges ahead for green growth
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Energy law or energy conservation law - which should come first?


After months of drafting, the Energy Law is still in its public consultation phase. However, the legislative body has voted for the latter to be ratified within a year.


"Conservation is our priority in energy policy," said Hu Guangbao, vice-chairman of the Law Committee of the National People's Congress, China's legislative body.


His explanation has rationalized the "fast-paced vote" for the Energy Conservation Law by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress at the end of October, only after the second review. China's law-making process often allows "three-readings" for the legislators before they vote.


"We are eager to create a strong legal framework for building an energy-efficient society and achieve the green targets," said Hu, adding that the vote had signaled the urgency for conservation in energy-thirsty China, which has decided on an annual saving target of 4 percent per GDP unit of energy consumption between 2006 and 2010.


In addition, China also decided to reduce its major pollutant discharges by 10 percent during the five-year period.


In accordance with the laws, the State Council has stipulated detailed regulations on how to monitor and assess the performance of provincial governments and major enterprises in energy savings and pollutant reduction. The long-discussed regulations were made public yesterday.


"China decided to satisfy its energy demands by saving and exploring more resources," Hu said.


"But energy conservation is always the priority as conventional energy such as oil and coal, has limited reserves."


To curb the preference of local governments for investments in resource-intensive industries, the law also allows the central government to determine preferential financing, taxation and industry policies to save energy.


In addition to energy saving, China's legislators are also prepared to review the circular economy law, which is expected to ensure cleaner and a zero-emission production process. But so far the legislative body has not yet given a timetable for when it will be voted.


Robert Lao, a world-renowned Chinese Canadian scientist said China had already been prepared to meet the challenges of changes to the production model.


"Up down from Chinese President Hu Jintao, the united mindset in China is that the country's economy should maintain sound and fast growth," said Lao, whose team from Canadian International Development Agency has helped China borrow ideas of cleaner production in the past decade.


All the legislative and administrative efforts have partly paid off.


China's energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product fell 1.23 percent year-on-year in 2006, the first annual decline since 2003, despite it still being below the government's target of 4 percent.


In the first nine months of this year, the index dropped 3 percent, compared to 2.78 percent in the first half. The achievement was called a "turning point" in environmental protection by central government officials.


During the nice months, there was a 1.81 percent fall in sulfur dioxide emissions, and a 0.28 percent fall in chemical oxygen demand, a key measure of water pollution.


(China Daily December 6, 2007)

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