China's fight against chronic pollution is faltering
China's fight against chronic pollution is faltering in the face of urbanization and rapid growth, though the last five years have seen some progress, the country's environment ministry said on Saturday.
China was still producing more "traditional pollutants" than it could bear, but new industries were also creating torrents of dangerous chemicals and mountains of electronic waste, said Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of environmental protection.
"We're still a developing country -- the standard of living is still not high, employment trends are serious and each level of government is paying attention to economic growth," he said.
China's consumption of coal -- the dirtiest of fossil fuels and a major source of acid rain, water pollution and climate change -- rose around 1 billion tons in the five years from 2006, and could rise another billion in the next five, he said.
"In this kind of territory, if we add emissions from another 1 billion tons of coal, how big will the impact be on our environment?" Zhang told reporters.
China plans to cut its levels of carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of GDP -- by 17 percent by the end of 2015. Zhang said individual regions had already been set targets.
China's climate change measures have normally been the responsibility of the growth-focused National Development and Reform Commission, with the environment ministry taking on more immediate threats such as acid rain-inducing sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as well as water and soil contamination.
But environment minister Zhou Shengxian said last month the ministry would include CO2 emissions in the environmental impact assessments of major projects.