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China urged to reduce dependence on fossil fuels
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China should impose a gradual restriction on burning fossil fuels to combat climate change and environmental degradation, a legislative official said in Shanghai on Friday.

Sun Youhai, a senior official with the National People's Congress (NPC), said his proposal should be written into the draft of the Energy Law to stress the need for conservation and environmental protection.

"We should have special stipulations in the law to reflect the new trends in energy, the environment and climate change," Sun, a department director under the NPC's environment and resources protection committee, told an international forum set up to discuss the draft law.

The draft is likely to be read and voted on next year.

Sun said China should gradually decrease using coal, oil and natural gas, which are not only limited but also cause severe damage to the environment.

"But I am stressing this is a trend and we should take gradual steps, as China is still a developing country."

Sun said more should be done within the legislative framework to encourage the use of renewable energy.

Last year, China consumed about 2.5 billion tons of coal, up 5 percent on 2006.

"Once the law has stipulated the restriction, China can set up a national carbon trading market," Sun said.

"The trading system will provide an incentive to stop using polluting energies."

Yang Fuqiang, vice-president of the US-based Energy Foundation told China Daily: "It's an excellent proposal, reflecting the trend and determination of China to take effective measures to curb carbon emissions."

The government had earlier set a target to reduce polluting emissions by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010. Sulfur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain, is included on the list of emissions, but carbon is not.

Other experts said the law should put more emphasis on providing incentives for developing alternatives to fossil fuels.

Daniel Dudek, chief economist of the US-based Environmental Defense Fund, said: "The first step is to level the playing field by ensuring all environmental costs are included in the price of each energy source.

"If the price of fossil fuels included the cost of controlling emissions, including carbon, at levels that are not harmful to the environment, green alternatives would look much more attractive."

(China Daily January 26, 2008)

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