Official efforts to tackle China's mounting pollution and ease growing dependence on imported energy shifted up a gear with new regulations aimed at improving fuel efficiency and limiting vehicle emissions, and a call to make it easier for members of the public to sue polluters.
Under the new efficiency laws, which take effect in July 2005, new vehicles are expected to cut fuel consumption by 10% by 2008 and a further 10% after that.
Besides cutting pollution, officials hope the new laws will improve energy efficiency and reduce China's growing dependence on imported oil, one third of which is burned up by Chinese automobiles.
According to the government, Chinese cars, buses and trucks use 25% more fuel per 100 km than those in Europe, 20% more than in Japan and 10% more than in the United States.
At the same time as the new limits were announced, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) announced it had begun drafting laws to limit exhaust pollution, noise and other forms of vehicle-related pollution.
With vehicle emissions expected to account for 79% of urban pollution by 2005, SEPA said the new laws would prevent cars that don't measure up from reaching the streets.
In a separate move, Pan Yue, the deputy director of SEPA and China's most outspoken official on the environment, said he was seeking changes in the law to allow members of the public to play a greater role in tackling pollution.
Given that authorities often lacked the resources or power to act against polluters, he said citizens should be empowered "to bring actions against the violators."