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China Struggling to Meet 2011-2015 Environment Goals

Local residents wait on motorcycles and bicycles at a traffic junction during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai, China, Dec. 6, 2013.
Local residents wait on motorcycles and bicycles at a traffic junction during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai, China, Dec. 6, 2013.
China is struggling to meet its 2011-2015 targets to reduce pollution, cut greenhouse gas growth and introduce cleaner sources of energy, a report submitted to the country's parliament said on Wednesday.

The report, which covers the 2011-2012 period, said faster-than-expected economic growth was to blame for China's failure to meet environmental targets ranging from energy use to nitrogen oxide emissions.

The state of China's environment has come into particular focus in 2013, with most major cities engulfed by hazardous smog during the course of the year, including Beijing in January and Shanghai earlier this month.

Desperate to head off growing public anger about the state of the country's air, water and soil, Beijing has promised to put an end to its "growth at all costs" economic model. It has already introduced new policies aimed at reining in polluting industries, cutting coal use and thinning traffic.

But the government report said China was already playing catch-up, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China wants energy intensity - the amount of energy consumed per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) - to fall by 16 percent over 2011-2015, but it had dropped by just 5.54 percent by the end of last year.

Efforts to reduce the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 17 percent over the same period were also behind schedule, with the actual decline over 2011-2012 standing at just 6.6 percent.

China also aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its total primary energy mix to 11.4 percent over the 2011-2015 period, but it had reached just 9.4 percent by the end of last year, up only 0.8 percentage points since 2010.

The slow progress made over 2011-2012 could put additional pressure on local governments to implement tougher measures against polluters, and even shut down energy-intensive industries like steel or cement.

At the end of 2010, northern China's Hebei and several other provinces ordered dozens of steel mills to close down in a last-ditch attempt to meet a binding 2006-2010 energy intensity target.

This month, several steel production facilities have already been temporarily closed in Hebei in order to cut pollution, and more closures are expected next year.
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