Premier Wen Says China Must Stop Wasting Energy

The government has blamed growth-minded local-level officials for not sticking to environmental targets.

Premier Wen Jiabao said March 5 that China needed to stop wasting energy and care more for the environment as its booming economy soars. China is one of the most polluted countries in the world and last year missed official targets to cut pollution and improve environmental efficiency -- a situation Wen said would have to change.

"The pattern of economic growth is inefficient. This can be seen most clearly in excessive energy consumption and serious environmental pollution," he told the National People's Congress, China's legislature. "We must attach greater importance to saving energy and resources, protecting the environment and using land intensively," he said in a speech to the nearly 3,000 delegates on the opening day of parliament's annual session.

The government has blamed growth-minded local-level officials for not sticking to the targets, and Wen said energy use and environmental standards would have to be enforced more strictly. "Many backward production facilities that should have been closed down are still in operation," the premier said. "Some local governments and enterprises failed to strictly comply with laws, regulations and standards for energy saving and environmental protection."

The government also would accelerate development of eco-friendly technologies and employ a mix of market-based mechanisms, public finance and incentives toward its environmental goals. "We will give full play to the role of the market and make use of a full range or economic levers such as pricing, government finance, taxation and credit to promote energy saving and environmental protection," he said.

Experts have said China needs to raise prices of energy sources, particularly polluting ones such as coal on which China depends heavily, to encourage conservation. Wen said the government would "deepen reform of prices for major resource products," without offering details.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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