From: Scott McDonald, Associated Press
Published February 13, 2007 12:00 AM

China Fails to Meet Environmental Goals

BEIJING -- China's environmental watchdog admitted Monday the country had failed to reach any of its pollution control goals for 2006 and had fallen further behind as the economy picked up speed.


The State Environmental Protection Agency said faster-than-expected economic growth meant that sulfur dioxide emissions increased by nearly 1.8 percent, or 463,000 tons, over the previous year, according to a report on its Web site.


Chemical oxygen demand, a water pollution index, rose by 1.2 percent, the report said.


China had set a goal of cutting the emission of major pollutants by 10 percent by 2010, with the two main pollutants to be reduced by 2 percent in 2006, the first year of the plan.


Sulfur dioxide emissions are chiefly caused by coal burning. China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, depending heavily on coal-fired power plants for electricity.


Most of the country's hundreds of power plants lack up-to-date pollution controls and are a major source of smog.


China has some of the most polluted cities in the world after two decades of breakneck economic growth, and the government has been losing ground in recent years in trying to balance environmental concerns with economic growth.


Gross domestic product grew 10.7 percent in 2006, 3.2 percentage points higher than first forecast, SEPA director Zhou Shengxian said on the Web site.


"Economic growth is still excessive ... and there is slow progress in restructuring obsolete and backward production capacity," Zhou said.


China announced last week that it will spend more to research global warming but lacks the money and technology to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are worsening the problem.


China "lags behind Europe and the United States" in the technology needed to clean its coal, which accounts for 69 percent of its energy output, said Qin Dahe, chief of the China Meteorological Administration.


"It takes time to catch up," said Qin, who served as one of China's representatives to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that earlier this month announced that global warming is very likely caused by mankind and will continue for centuries.


In his comments, Zhou also said investment in projects to prevent water pollution had not been made and that environmental laws are weak and ineffectively enforced.


The government says all of China's major rivers are dangerously polluted, with millions of people lacking access to clean drinking water.


A pollution accident happened nearly every two days in China last year, with authorities receiving 600,000 environmental complaints, according to state media.


Source: Associated Press


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