China is poorly prepared to tackle the impact of climate change that presents a serious threat to the country, due to a lack of planning and public awareness, the government said yesterday.
The world’s most populous country already faces challenges from weather extremes, with 2,000 people dying on average each year since the 1990s in natural disasters that are set to get worse, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a report.
“Our country is a developing nation with a large population, complex climate conditions and a weak environment,” the economic planning agency said. “Climate change is already a serious threat to food, water, ecological and energy security, and to people’s lives and property.”
“The mission to deal with climate change is very arduous, but knowledge in society and ability to do this are weak across the board,” it said.
A coal-dependent manufacturing base has made China the world’s biggest contributor to climate change, while high and rising local air pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger nationwide.
In recent months, the government has outlined new policies to fight the problem, on top of steep renewable energy targets in the current five-year plan.
China’s pollution is expected to continue growing well into the next decade, albeit at a slower pace, as it has little choice but to rely on fossil fuels to develop its western interior.
The smog that blanketed more than 100 cities in half of China last week rekindled criticism of insufficient efforts in the fight against air pollution.
“The smog is everywhere,” said Xiong Yuehui, head of the science and technology department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, at a meeting in Shanghai at the weekend. “If one place is free of smog, then it will be a news.”
China does not lack the technology and funds needed to clean up the air, but lacks concrete implementation efforts, Xiong said.
About 22 million tons of sulfur dioxide are emitted into the air untreated each year while the remaining two thirds of the total, or 40 million tons, have their sulfur removed, according to ministry data.
However, Luo Jianhua, secretary-general of the China Environment Service Industry Association of the All-China Federation of Industry & Commerce, doubted the accuracy of the sulfur removal rate. He believes many polluting companies often shut down treatment facilities to cut costs.
Bian Cheng, chairman of environmental protection equipment manufacturer Keda Industrial Co Ltd, blamed loose supervision for the smog and called for tough law enforcement.
Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of environmental protection, said the ministry was working on a system to punish government officials for environmental degradation.
Xiong said the ministry was also working to toughen environmental protection standards.