The career paths of government officials will soon be determined by their ability to help the country meet its energy-saving targets if the highest legislative body votes in favor of an energy-efficiency law tomorrow.
The draft of the revised Energy Efficiency Law stipulates that the ability of local governments and their chief officials to meet energy-efficiency goals should be a key decider when higher-level governments examine their performance.
The law, currently under second review by the Standing Committee of National People's Congress (NPC), is likely to be put to a vote tomorrow even though a draft law is normally only put to vote after the third reading.
Hu Guangbao, deputy director of the NPC's Law Committee, said the law could create a better legal environment for efforts to achieve sustainable development in energy-hungry China.
The evaluation system laid out in the draft is the latest development in the struggle to meet the authorities' targets of cutting the country's energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent by 2010.
He Bingguang, an environment official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said the draft law, if it passes, will create a legal basis for the State Council's plan to design an "environmental veto system", under which energy saving will be a decisive factor in determining the futures of government and Party officials.
The decisive factors in the current official assessment system are economic growth, family planning and workplace safety.
He said China still faces many hurdles when it comes to energy conservation despite government measures.
The government last year ordered officials to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 4 percent per year until 2010, and provincial governors have signed agreements with the State Council promising to meet the targets.
But a recent survey showed that except for Beijing, no province had succeeded in meeting the promised cuts. Given that situation, the NDRC has decided that officials should be assessed over the course of five years rather than a single year.
To curb the preference of local governments for investments in resource-intensive industries, the draft law also allows the central government to come up with preferential financing, taxation and industrial policies to save energy.
"China decided to satisfy its energy demand by saving and exploring more resources," the draft says. "But energy conservation is always the priority."
This year, the State set aside another 10 billion yuan (US$1.33 billion) to improve energy efficiency and cut pollution, bringing the total amount of funds available for the purpose each year to 21.3 billion yuan. But NDRC Minister Ma Kai told the Xinhua News Agency that "energy consumption is still in a grim situation".
(China Daily October 25, 2007)