(1). China to tighten monitoring of pollution
China, one of the most polluted countries in the world, plans to step up its monitoring of harmful emissions in an effort to avoid missing pollution-reduction goals for a second year, state media reported on Saturday.
The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), China’s environment watchdog, will spend 2 billion yuan (250 million dollars) to set up new pollution statistics, monitoring and accountability systems within 18 months, the China Daily said. “The systems are expected to improve China’s statistical and monitoring capabilities on the environment and sharpen its law enforcement,” the paper quoted SEPA director Zhou Shengxian as saying. Zhou said he was confident the two percent reduction goal could be met this year but emphasised that success or failure depended on the efforts of local governments in China’s highly decentralised administrative system.
The problem is expected to be a key issue of discussion in China’s National People’s Congress, whose annual parliamentary meeting officially begins on Monday. China has one of the worst pollution problems in the world, with a SEPA report late last year saying air pollution in urban areas was affecting the health of millions. It said 11 major cities, including the capital Beijing, were plagued by serious air pollution on more than a third of days in 2006, damaging the health of some 15 million people.
(2). Unusual temperatures leave five million Chinese short of water
Millions of Chinese are unable to get enough drinking water because of a series of droughts caused by “abnormally high” temperatures, state media said Sunday. One of the worst hit regions is Shandong province in east China, which is China’s second-most populous with 92 million and one of the nation’s main grain producers, the Xinhua news agency reported. Sichuan province in southwestern China, another key area for agricultural production, has also experienced unusually high temperatures, leaving 1.1 million people without enough water, Xinhua said.
Xinhua quoted statistics from Shandong Provincial Meteorological Observatory that in the period September to February, the province received just 51.4 millimetres (two inches) of rain, down 80 percent from a year earlier. One fifth of the total farmland in the province is short of water, and out of this portion, another fifth has had be left idle, according to Xinhua. In Chongqing, a municipality to the east of Sichuan, access to drinking water will be a problem for six million people until the flood season starts in May, according to the agency.
(3). China Needs to Move Quickly on Energy Savings
In its World Energy Outlook 2006, launched November 7, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projected that China will pass the United States to become the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide by 2010. The IEA predicts that developing countries, led by China and India, will account for more than 70 percent of the estimated 53 percent increase in global primary energy demand by 2030. But this discouraging energy future could be turned into a “clean, clever, and competitive” one if governments take strong policy actions, the IEA noted. China, in particular, is envisioning a sustainable energy future to meet its rising demand and has high hopes to ramp up energy production while simultaneously cutting back on energy use.
Yongsheng Xu, vice director general of the Bureau of Energy with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), noted recently that China will likely pass the United States as the world’s top energy producer in the next two years, with more than 10,000 billion yuan (US$1.23 trillion) invested in the domestic energy market by 2020. NDRC chief Kai Ma confirmed China’s role as an energy powerhouse in a recent article on the nation’s energy security, noting that in 2005, China accounted for 37.4 percent of world coal production and was the sixth largest oil producer (at 181 million tons), the second largest electricity producer, and the largest hydropower producer. Ma stressed that China also has huge potential for energy savings by adjusting its economic structure and growth model—for example, by moving from a dominance in manufacturing to the less-energy-intensive service sector, and by applying energy-efficient technologies in all areas of commercial and household consumption.