by Xinhua writer An Bei
BEIJING, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Official figures from
the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) show that China will fail
to meet its target of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by four
percent this year.
China has set a unit energy consumption reduction
target of 20 percent for the five-year period from 2006 to 2010. The goal is
aimed at guiding China's social and economic development but the country is
already well behind schedule.
In fact, China witnessed an increase of 0.8 percent
in its energy consumption per unit of GDP in the first half of the year and
indexes for major pollutants have continued to rise.
The central government has put the blame for the
sluggish start to their "Green GDP" pilot projects in ten provinces and
municipalities squarely on the local governments. Many local authorities have
resisted fiercely and some of them have even asked to abandon the scheme.
Under the green GDP project, the cost of
environmental degradation is highlighted alongside economic growth figures of
"A lack of economic motives is the fundamental reason
for the local governments' weakness in reducing energy consumption and improving
environmental protection," said Chen Qingtai, vice director of the Economic
Committee under the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National
"No enterprises or local governments are taking pains
to transform their methods of achieving economic growth or taking risks to
improve technological innovation," said Chen.
Qin Min, the manager of a textile plant in South
China, is a case in point. He insists he wants to equip all the machines in his
factory with energy-efficient converters but is waiting for the government to
introduce financial incentives.
"I want to change but the cost will be too high and
whether or not, or by how much, I can benefit from a tax reduction is unclear,"
In a national meeting mapping out economic policies
for 2007 held last week, China's central authorities recognized that more
efforts were needed to improve energy efficiency in the country and issued a
stark warning to uncooperative local government cadres.
Among the eight leading economic tasks it listed for
next year, the Central Government put energy efficiency and environmental
protection third, behind macro-economic control and agriculture.
"(All officials) must reach a common understanding
and make their utmost effort to achieve practical improvement in reducing energy
consumption and pollution," a statement issued at the conclusion of the Central
Economic Work Conference read.
According to an energy efficiency plan circulated by
the State Council to governments at all levels in August, an industrial
structure that promotes energy efficiency will be created, which places emphasis
on technological innovation, supervision of local departments and favorable tax
Some steps in this direction have been taken this
year. In 2006,1,008 enterprises in nine major energy-consuming industries have
participated in the energy efficiency program launched by the central
government. The objective of the project is to save energy equivalent to 100
million tons of coal.
In June, China for the first time published a list of
provincial regions in order of energy efficiency in order to name and shame the
In September, China abolished export tax rebates on
coal, natural gas and some primary wood products while reducing tax rebates on
steel, cement, textile and non-ferrous metals.
"Administrative measures may be effective sometimes
in encouraging energy saving and environmental protection, but it is by no means
a panacea," said Chen Qingtai.
"Only when the government policies take effect
through market forces will every player's efforts in pursuing profits fall in
line with energy saving and environmental protection, otherwise achieving our
energy efficiency target will be impossible," he said.
A list of energy-saving products is being drawn up by
the central government, the use of which will result in tax preferences. Higher
export taxes will be imposed to dissuade companies from exporting goods that
involve a high consumption of energy and cause serious pollution.
"For China's energy saving project, 2007 will be very
critical, because the time has come for those energy-saving measures,
governmental or non-governmental, to prove effective," according to the Energy
Research Institute of the NDRC.