China to ‘declare war’ on pollution

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 3 minutes
5 March 2014

BEIJING: This morning Premier Li Keqiang spoke at the opening of China’s important annual parliamentary sessions, where he said the country is to ‘declare war’ on pollution.

In a speech at the National People’s Congress in Beijing, Li Keqiang pledged: “We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty”, according to China state media. His statement is the strongest government recognition yet of the public's heightened concerns around smog’s impact on health and the environment.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, China’s headlines continued to be dominated by the country’s dangerous levels of smog in its biggest cities. The Premier addressed this, stating China would focus on reducing toxic particulate measurements of PM2.5 and PM10. He said: “Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

At today’s session, Premier Li Keqiang presented the Government Work Report, which reviews economic developments and policy priorities for the coming year. The Report shows GDP growth and inflation targets are in line with expectations, at 7.5% and 3.5% respectively.

The report's environmental priorities included:

  • 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces would be shut down in 2014 with many power plants in high-intensity industries undergoing various processes to reduce emissions.
  • Six million high-emission vehicles would be removed from roads.
  • Energy conservation measures will be introduced. 

Li Keqiang highlighted China’s new science, technology and social programs in his speech, as well as the importance of tackling pollution with the aim of “building China into a beautiful homeland with a sound ecological environment.”

He concluded his speech by emphasizing collaboration in achieving a prosperous future for China: “Governments at all levels and the whole society should act more vigorously to protect the land our lives depend on. […] With all these efforts we can surely realize the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation!”

Over the past three decades, China has experienced unprecedented growth. GDP has increased from ~US$59 billion in 1978 to ~US$9.4 trillion, making it the world’s second largest economy. This rapid growth has caused huge levels of domestic environmental pollution and consumption of resources, and people’s lives and health have been severely affected.

To coincide with this week’s sessions, The Climate Group published a new briefing, Eco-civilization: China's blueprint for a new era, which provides international readers with an overview of key policy guidelines and priorities the country’s new leadership will adopt in the face of these challenges.

In particular, our briefing focuses on the government's pioneering low carbon ‘eco-civilization’ concept--the first time the concept has been elevated to such a high-level--which will have a huge impact on China’s future economy.

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group, commented: “Today's report from the Premier is the highest level recognition of these critical issues and refocuses China's priorities over the next 10 years. We welcome the government's acceptance of the crisis and prominence of addressing pollution and building a sound ecological development, but neither of these issues are simple; the costs of economic growth and people's health are central to this. Like Li Keqiang suggests, we need collaboration across all levels to defeat these issues. The Premier's pledge to reduce the hazardous particulates and reduce high-intensity industries must really be pushed through with the tenacity his statement suggests, if we are to curb climate change and achieve a safer, cleaner, more prosperous future for China--and the rest of the world."

By Clare Saxon

Read 'Eco-civilization: China's blueprint for a new era'

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