Li Keqiang announces new energy target to wean China off coal

Beijing government pledges to strictly enforce environmental regulations and “crack down” on illegal emissions

Many of China's major cities are blighted by a soup of toxic fog on a daily basis (Pic: Flickr/Jakob Montrasio)

Many of China’s major cities are blighted by a soup of toxic fog on a daily basis (Pic: Flickr/Jakob Montrasio)

By Ed King

China’s premier Li Keqiang has announced new targets to wean the country off coal and cut chronic air pollution levels affecting most of the country’s big cities.

Speaking at the opening session of the National People’s Congress, the annual meeting of parliament, Li promised to fight environmental degradation “with all our might”.

The government would aim to reduce the amount of energy used per unit of GDP, or energy intensity, by 3.1% in 2015.

“We must strictly enforce environmental laws and regulations; crack down on those guilty of creating illegal emissions and ensure they pay a heavy price for such offences,” Li said.

Last year China’s energy intensity fell 4.8%, with coal use down 2.9% on 2013 levels.

According to a report by Reuters, the government wants to cap coal use to 50% of total energy consumption by the middle of the century.

Officials also want to boost wind capacity to 200 gigawatts (GW) and solar to 100 GW by 2020, up from 95.8 GW and 26.5 GW.

Toxic air quality levels that most city-dwellers in China have to contend with were highlighted last weekend with the release of a film called ‘Under the Dome’.

Presented by a well-known Chinese journalist, the 103-minute documentary quickly went viral across the country, despite efforts by the government to limit its exposure in the media.

“Air pollution has turned to be a social and political issue. It is a threat to the thinking of political legitimacy. It is a critical moment and event,” leading Chinese climate expert Professor Qi Ye told an event in London earlier this week.

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