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China's anti-pollution efforts 'in right direction': U.S. expert

2015-03-12 09:42 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

A number of major anti- pollution measures unveiled by China during the past year are " steps in the right direction" but Beijing still needs to ensure " strong enforcement and more information transparency," a U.S. expert on climate and energy said.

"I am optimistic (about China's environmental future) because sustainable development is in China's own self-interest," Barbara Finamore, the Asia director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a U.S.-based environmental advocacy group, told Xinhua.

Finamore listed a few examples of China's latest measures designed to fight pollution, including the enactment of " pathbreaking" amendments to China's Environmental Protection Law, the National Climate Change Action Plan for 2014-2020, the National Energy Development Strategy Action Plan that includes, for the first time, a cap on coal consumption, and the U.S.-China climate change agreement.

And on Friday, an action plan released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology pledged that the largest coal producer and consumer will cut coal consumption by over 80 million tons by 2017 and more than 160 million tons by 2020.[Special coverage]

"As a result of these measures, China's coal consumption in 2014 dropped by 2.9 percent, the first time in 14 years, and energy intensity dropped by 4.8 percent," Finamore said.

She also called for actions that would further strengthen China 's efforts to clean up the air and water, including making national cap on coal use "mandatory and enforceable."

"The coal cap policy is a way to simultaneously tackle China's severe air pollution problems, and at the same time help re- balance and upgrade China's energy and economic structure," the NRDC expert said.

And setting a price on carbon could be used as a complement to existing policies for achieving the coal cap and address rising oil consumption, she said.

Finamore believed that rising oil consumption in China can be capped by 2025 by putting in place policies today to make cars more efficient and to scale up conversion to an electric vehicle fleet, and designing smart cities and public transportation systems to reduce the demand for driving.

Specially, China can do more to control air pollution from ports and shipping because a suite of proven strategies and clean technologies have already been employed around the world, Finamore said.

"China is now home to seven of the globe's top ten busiest ports, all of which located in key air pollution control regions," she said. "Yet China does not yet require that container ships meet the same air quality standards administered by many other ports around the world."

In all, China can achieve its air quality targets without harming economic growth through a combination of accelerated economic, energy conservation, fuel switching and environmental policy, Finamore said, citing a new report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an international group chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

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