Chinese Premier Li Keqiang declared a war on smog during his equivalent to a State of the Union address Tuesday, acknowledging that pollution in northern China has reached unhealthy and "unbearable" levels.
Pollution is "nature's red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development," Li said in his comments, which began the National People's Congress in Beijing, Bloomberg News reported. "Fostering a sound ecological environment
is vital for people's lives and the future of our nation."
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Li said China will "act more vigorously to protect the land our lives depend upon," Bloomberg said.
Shane Oliver of Sydney-based AMP Capital Investors told Bloomberg that China's impending fight against pollution could be one reason why Li established a 2014 target of 7.5 gross domestic product growth rather than a higher number.
"The slower growth target is consistent with more action on pollution," Oliver said. He added that growth of 8 percent or more "would have signaled that pollution was becoming less of a focus."
China's finance ministry issued a separate report stating that environmental protection spending was down last year 9.7 percent to $29.44 billion. The ministry credited subsidies promoting the energy-efficient products use as the reason for the decreased funding.
"This is an acknowledgement at the highest level that there is a crisis," Craig Hart, an expert on Chinese environmental policy, told Reuters
. "Their approach is going to have to be pro-economy. I think they will pump money into upgrading plants. This could be another green stimulus although it is not being packaged that way."
Li said in his comments that China will eliminate its outdated steel production capacity by 27 million tons this year, cement production by 42 million tons, and shutter 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces, Reuters said.
Along with smog, China also is battling increasing water and soil pollution. The country's economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, said it would begin plans to address agricultural pollution, which includes the contamination of 8 million acres of farmland by heavy metals.
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