China failed the first test in its goal of meeting ambitious energy-saving and environment-protection goals in the current five-year plan.
The target set for last year was to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 4 percent and pollutant emissions by 2 percent, but only Beijing and five other provinces or municipalities, which were not named, reportedly made the grade.
It wasn't revealed how much off the target the overall performance was.
"From a nationwide perspective, it's certain that last year's energy-consumption reduction goal couldn't be achieved," Han Wenke, director of the Energy Research Institute affiliated to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said yesterday.
The goal set for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) was to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent as well as key pollutant discharges by 10 percent.
But the report card for last year was dismal according to figures for the first half of 2006 with energy consumption per unit of GDP actually rising 0.8 percent. Figures for the whole year aren't yet available.
Ma Kai, minister of the NDRC, admitted last December that "it is extremely hard to achieve this year's goal," citing a failure to optimize the industrial structure in a short time and a lack of supportive policies.
Ma also warned of a possible failure this year with energy-guzzling and heavily-polluting industries continuing to be set up.
The State Environmental Protection Administration said there may have been a 2 percent increase in both chemical oxygen demand (COD) -- a key index of water quality -- and emissions of sulfur dioxide last year.
But Zhou Dadi, former director of the Energy Research Institute, was optimistic. "Though the goal was not achieved a good foundation has been laid with unprecedented attention paid to energy conservation," he said.
Zhou said the "inertia" of an unbalanced economic growth pattern, which relied excessively on high-energy-consuming and heavily-polluting industries to drive up the GDP, and poor energy conservation technologies were behind the failure.
All 31 provinces and municipalities had impressed upon local governments and key enterprises the need to meet the green targets, the NDRC said.
Zhou suggested a holistic approach to energy conservation as well as using the carrot-and-stick method such as special funds or a resources tax.
(China Daily January 10, 2007)