NPC rubber stamps Wen’s green-oriented 12th 5-year-plan
As is customary, the 12th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development was approved by the legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), with 2,778 out of a total of 2,875 deputies voting for it, according to the Xinhua state news agency.
While pledging to make China a fairer society which would provide new and stronger sources for future growth, the five-year program also outlines how China plans to follow a more sustainable and low-carbon development path in an energy-specific plan that is among 17 specific strategies that comprise the five-year plan.
It incorporates environmental targets, namely: to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 11.4 per cent, while reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 16 per cent and 17 per cent respectively by the end of 2015.
The world is expected to gain from a China where rising living standards will boost domestic consumption, and harsher targets on energy use will contribute more to the world's battle against global warming, according to the five-year plan.
Building a fairer society has been a core goal of the government which has worked to spread the wealth more evenly among its around 1.34 billion population, but the income of most people in China as lagged behind economic growth.
In a press conference after the conclusion of the parliamentary session, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that China must shift its measure of economic success away from GDP-focused criteria towards a broader set of sustainability metrics if the country is to meet new goals designed to save energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels and included in its latest five-year plan.
The central government would adopt new performance evaluation criteria for local governments and give more weight to the efficiency of economic growth, environment protection and living standards, said Wen.
"Two figures are more important than GDP growth rate. They are the proportion of the expenditure on education in the national economy, and the ratio of spending on research and development in the GDP," said Wen.
"Without radically changing the mindset and criteria assessing the performance of our officials, it would be difficult to achieve the goals set by the five-year plan," Wen said.
He added that particular focus will be dedicated to wind energy, solar energy, biomass energy, clean coal, coalbed methane, gas hydrate, nuclear energy, intelligent power grid and new vehicle fuels.
In addition to boosting the construction of nuclear power plants in the coastal areas, new plants are also planned in central regions while the plan calls for six large wind power bases on land and another two in coastal areas, and the development of solar power plants in Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Yunnan.
The central government aims to grow the Chinese economy around seven per cent per annum over the next five years but concerns have been raised that China's regions will ignore the new environmental targets in pursuit of economic growth.
Across the country there is increasing concern over the levels of pollution that rapid growth has caused, even though China's environment ministry has claimed some improvement over the previous five years.
China's coal consumption rose by around one billion tonnes from 2006-2010 and Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of environmental protection, told reporters on Saturday that this figure could rise by another billion over the next five years.