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Local Gov'ts 'Ignoring' Green Model
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Some local governments are investing heavily in high resources consuming sectors, ignoring the central government's decision to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) officials said yesterday.

Failure to meet the central government's green targets, the officials fear, could "indirectly hinder social harmony".

"The central government is committed to achieving the (green) targets but some local governments have turned a blind eye to them," He Bingguang, deputy director of an NDRC department, said at an energy saving forum in Beijing.

The official of NDRC's Resource Utilization and Environmental Protection Department didn't name the wrongdoers, though.

Eight State Council inspection teams recently found some local governments had been giving preferential treatment to steel, cement and other high energy consuming and polluting industries despite the top leadership's repeated warning that "they are overheated and should be brought under control".

Local officials prefer such projects because they not only raise their areas' economic output, but also help them get promoted, He said.

China needs "systematic reforms" to realize its goals of cutting energy consumption per 10,000 yuan (US$2,470) of GDP by 20 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).

For instance, apart from the economic growth rate, achievements in energy saving, environmental protection and social development should also be used to assess the performances of Communist Party of China (CPC) and government officials, He said.

The central government's "unshakable commitment" to saving energy and cutting emissions is a "political mission", he said.

Last month, the State Council set up a group, headed by Premier Wen Jiabao, to oversee national efforts in energy efficiency and reduction in greenhouse gas emission.

"The highest leadership has realized that if we fail in this endeavor, social harmony could be affected," said He.

Some experts, however, said the "vicious circle" of development is already threatening social harmony. The economy is still growing at a blistering pace as proved by its 11.5 percent rise in first half of the year.

Dai Yande, deputy director of NDRC's energy department, said China's runaway growth has come at the cost of high power consumption, especially coal that accounted for nearly 70 percent of the country's total energy supply. That has created a lot of nouveaux riches in the coal mining sector in north China.

Dai's study has found coal-mine owners to be the driving force behind rising property prices in cities such as Beijing and Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province.

"These nouveaux riches have invested a lot in the property market, partly helping propel real estate prices in the past several years," Dai said. "We don't see any sign of the realty market cooling down partly because of their buying spree."

The income divide could widen further, Dai warned, because the value of their property has been increasing by leaps and bounds. "From this point of view, energy consumption has its special social implication in China."

(China Daily July 23, 2007)

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