Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday praised the Chinese government's efforts to reduce pollution and urged Western countries to provide help to tackle the global problem.
The article in the paper, entitled A Light in the Fog said, according to the World Bank and Chinese environmental authorities, the Chinese government "is treating the problem seriously and the air in most Chinese cities is getting cleaner. By modern Beijing standards, next month's Olympic Games is likely to be a clean-air event."
It said farmers have been banned from burning wheat stalks across most of northern China. Diesel trucks have been pulled off the roads, hundreds of steel mills in surrounding provinces have been closed for the summer. Some improvements will continue after the Olympics.
The article noted that one difference between China now and the air pollution problems of the United States and Europe in the past is that those countries did not seriously tackle environmental issues until they were already rich.
"China is at a much lower level of per capita income today than those countries were in the 1960s, and yet it has already begun serious efforts to reduce water and air pollution and to improve energy efficiency," the paper quoted David Dollar, the World Bank's China director, as saying.
The paper quoted Yu Jianhua, director of Beijing's air quality monitoring center, as saying his government is trying to catch up with Western countries. "Over 50 years they have made their air quality good enough," he says. "We started late. We've only had 10 years."
Of late, China's progress in improving the air has been clouded by a suspicion that it has been massaging its figures.
Almost half of China's pollution-related deaths are related to indoor air pollution, typically caused by unsafe coal stoves. But China is moving to fix the problem at a much earlier stage of development.
It has already installed more efficient coal stoves in nearly 200 million households over two decades - that is as much as providing nine stoves for every Australian. And now they are starting to replace them all again.
The article also pointed out that China is also shutting down inefficient factories. It is reducing energy intensity by 20 percent over five years. And it is beginning to judge chief executives and government officials against energy and pollution targets. Two provincial governors recently pledged to resign if they did not meet environmental targets. It is a radical departure from policies that rewarded economic growth at all cost.
"In all of these endeavors the government is explicitly targeting health, environmental amenity and energy security. In most cases, reducing carbon emissions is a beneficial accident," it added.
The article concluded by quoted a Chinese professor as saying that "If the rest of the world does not provide help to China right now, then what the rest of the developed world does from now on is insignificant," as climate change is a global issue, not a Chinese issue.
(Xinhua News Agency July 19, 2008)