Vehicle drive amid the heavy haze at night in Beijing, China. File photo/Reuters
China’s environment conditions are “grim,” falling short of public expectations even after five years of efforts to improve air quality, boost clean energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions, a senior official said on Wednesday.
There was still a long way to go, said Zhao Yingmin, the vice-minister of ecology and environment, even though China had met a series of targets on smog, water quality and carbon emissions over the five years from 2016.
“While seeing the improvements ... it should be clearly recognised that the quality of the ecological environment remains far from people’s expectations for a better life,” he told reporters in Beijing.
China remains dependent on heavy industry and coal, and the “grim environmental trends” have not fundamentally changed, he added.
Last month, President Xi Jinping set a 2060 deadline to attain “carbon neutrality,” as part of China’s commitments to the Paris climate change accord. It also aims for emissions to peak by 2030.
The announcement was seen as a challenge to the United States, set to withdraw from the Paris deal on Nov.4. On Monday, the foreign ministry criticised Washington’s record on climate, calling it a consensus-breaker and a troublemaker.
China is drawing up a new five-year plan for 2021-2025, which experts say would require stronger commitment to controlling coal consumption and promoting low-carbon energy to meet the 2060 target of carbon neutrality.
Zhao did not give detail of the next five-year plan, but said China would step up efforts to control fossil fuel consumption and promote low-carbon technology, while promising greater contributions to tackling climate change.
A total of 2.36 million companies, industrial facilities and institutions in China are legally obliged to obtain permits to emit pollutants like sulphur dioxide or wastewater.
From smog breaks to pollution bonuses, Asia's businesses are promising increasingly inventive perks in a desperate bid to lure executives to a region where toxic air engulfs major cities for much of the year.
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