China admits it has ‘long way to go’ on environmental protection

Beijing’s frank acknowledgement comes as it lays out new targets for lower emissions and clean air and water.

China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. [File: David Gray/Reuters]

China has a “long way to go” on environmental protection, its State Council acknowledged on Sunday, as it announced an “in-depth” fight against pollution with new targets for cleaner air and water and measures to tackle carbon emissions.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, said there had been some improvements in the country’s ecological situation since the launch of its anti-pollution campaign, state news agency Xinhua reported.

But the Council said it would be tough to tackle pollution and ensure that carbon emissions peaked in 2030 and that carbon neutrality was achieved by 2060, as promised by President Xi Jinping.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

“The ecological and environment protection campaign has a long way to go,” the Council said in a statement.

China aims to bring the proportion of good water quality in its coastal regions up to 79 percent, to basically eliminate heavily polluted weather, to effectively control soil pollution risks and to significantly enhance the capability of treating solid waste and new pollutants, the Council said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 [File: Greg Baker/AFP]

The government also pledged to cut the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mainly emitted by petroleum and chemical industries, and nitrogen oxides by at least 10 percent in 2025 from 2020 levels, to halt the rise in ground ozone pollution.

It will try to meet its ambitious environmental goals without significant disruption of economic and industrial activity and people’s everyday lives, the Council said, adding that the environmental fight will also coordinate with other national actions, including energy and food security campaigns.

The State Council aims to make about 93 percent of its contaminated farmland fit for crops by the end of 2025, up from 90 percent set for the end of 2020, and to reduce heavy metal waste discharged by key industries by 5 percent from their 2020 levels.

China will focus on key sectors such as energy, steel and transport in its efforts to curb carbon emissions, it said.

President Xi has faced criticism, including from US President Joe Biden, for not attending the United Nations climate gathering now under way in Glasgow, Scotland.

Beijing has also not offered new targets in the non-binding national climate change plans, known as NDCs, that must be submitted regularly to the UN as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

Source: Reuters