The environment took center stage in June as China faced off against the G8 on climate change while dealing with pollution problems at home that saw many go without fresh water.
The annual G8 meeting held in Germany focused on developing new strategies to deal with emissions and reverse climate change. Leaders from China and India were invited but, while the countries agreed something should be done, they set no targets.
Refusing to commit to specific emissions reductions, National Development and Reform Commission Chairman Ma Kai went as far as to say growth remained the country’s priority, even if it means China soon becomes the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter.
China’s action plan on climate change, released to coincide with the G8 summit, highlighted the need for more renewable energy and bio-fuels but it also insisted that developed nations have the “unshirkable responsibility” to take the lead on these issues. It also called on the West to share more pollution-controlling technology.
“We have heard a lot of thunder but we have yet to see the rain,” Ma observed.
Closer to home, five officials in Jiangsu province were punished in early June after algae on Lake Tai choked off the freshwater supply to more than two million people in the city of Wuxi. The algae, which covered over five square kilometers, was fed by nutrient-rich sewage and industrial waste dumped in the lake. Another algal bloom hit nearby Lake Chao.
A State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) report released mid-June said that, despite increases in sewage treatment and proper garbage disposal, urban pollution in China is worsening, with only 38% of 585 cities surveyed meeting national health standards.
However, in a briefing to mark World Environment Day on June 5, SEPA Vice Minister Zhang Lijun insisted that 2007 would see a drop in the overall emissions of major pollutants. China has targeted reducing sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen emissions – two of the main contributors to pollution – by 10% between 2006 and 2010. Last year, discharges of the two gases rose 1.8% and 1.2% respectively, but Zhang said meeting the 2010 target “should not be a problem.”