China will strive to chop down its energy consumption rate by 4 percent this year, a key index to guide economic and social development, Premier Wen Jiabao announced Sunday.
"Energy consumption per unit of GDP should fall by about 4 percent in 2006," said Wen while delivering a report on government work at the opening meeting of the Fourth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature.
It is the first time that China combines energy-efficiency with the indexes of economic growth, price, employment and balance of payments for macro-control of its economy.
"Energy-efficiency is indeed a key economic index, but few governments have made it a national policy," Jiang Xinmin, an expert with the Energy Institute under the State Development and Reform Commission.
China is determined to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 percent in the coming five years, a new round of economic and social development beginning this year, Wen said in his report, which includes the draft outline of the 11th Five-Year (2006-2010) program for examination and approval by the legislature.
Necessitated by the country's current conditions and long-term interests, these targets are designed to tackle the mounting pressure on resources and environment and provide a clear guide for policy making, Wen addressed the 2,927 NPC deputies present at the meeting held at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing.
"Though achieving them will be quite difficult, we have the confidence and determination to succeed," Wen said, showing that China is resolved to build a resources-saving and environment- friendly society.
China must reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by an annual rate of at least 4.4 percent in a bid to fulfill the five- year target, experts said.
The index will from now on become a substantial indicator measuring economic performance, said Jiang.
Official statistics show that the total volume of energy consumption in China last year was equal to 2.22 billion tons of standard coal, up 9.5 percent over that in 2004 and lower than the 9.9-percent economic growth rate. Energy consumption per 10,000 yuan (1,250 U.S. dollars) of GDP was equivalent to 1.43 tons of standard coal, roughly the same level as that in 2004.
China saw its economic volume quadrupled in the last two decades of the 20th century largely due to huge investment and doubled energy consumption. However, the obvious conflict between environment protection and booming economic growth challenged China's future development.
The premier called for the establishment of various standards for conserving energy, water, land and materials in all industries, and the development of environment-friendly products, projects and buildings.
Wen added that energy-efficiency index of all regions and major industries will be released to the public on an annual basis. In this sense, the public will be mobilized to join in the long-term campaign of energy and resources conservation in a bid to bolster a recyclable economy and an environment-friendly society.
Although rich in natural resources in terms of its vast territory, China is in short supply of resources in terms of its 1. 3 billion population, said Sun Zhaoxue, vice president of China Aluminum Co., Ltd.
The per capita sum of arable land, water, mineral resources and energy resources in China is about 50 percent, 32 percent, 47 percent and 39 percent respectively of the world's average figure. However, energy consumption per 10,000 U.S. dollars of output value in China is 3.4 times of the world's average level, said Sun, also an NPC deputy.
China ranks among the world's most wasteful users of natural resources, according to a latest survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Actually, China stands at the 54th position out of 59 countries surveyed.
The volume of carbon dioxide discharge per unit of GDP in China is about 68 times that of Japan, 26 times of Germany, and six times of the United States, according to Sun.
The total volume of major pollutant discharges is set to drop 10 percent by 2010, according to the draft outline on economic and social development for 2006-2010.
"China is stepping up economic restructuring and upgrading the pattern of economic growth in the pursuit of higher quality and efficiency rather than speed," Jiang noted.