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Studio interview: Premier Li declares war on pollution

03-07-2014 20:49 BJT Special Report: 2014 NPC & CPPCC Sessions |

Joining us in the studio now, we have Liu Ke, Vice President of Shenhua Research, and Yi Min, CEO of MTR China Business. Thanks for joining us.

Q1. Premier Li Keqiang has talked about a "war against pollution.” They’re quite dramatic words. What message is he sending out – that pollution is a threat to the country, a potentially deadly enemy?

Q2. Smog choked Beijing and North East China for six consecutive days at the end of Febrary. President Xi’s walkabout in Beijing at that time was trumpetted by the Xinhua News Agency with the headline “Breathing together, sharing the fate.” Why has the leadership decided now to give priority to pollution control?

Q3. Premier Li referred to smog as “a red-light warning" and announced a list of specific measures instead of vague and ambiguous slogans. They include boosting energy conservation, cutting exhaust fumes, closing down 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces and cleaning out coal-burning power plants to remove sulphur and dust. Will the plan make any real difference – and over what period?

Q4. The government is going ahead with legislation for an environmental protection tax. Should the tax be levied on individuals or businesses – or both? Is this an effective measure?
Q5. Politically, pollution poses a tricky problem. No-one wants smog but maybe no-one wants to pay extra taxes or higher energy bills, or lose their jobs. And people who can afford cars want to be able to drive them whenever they want. Do you think city dwellers are now prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of cleaner air?
Q6. And the economy may also suffer. Closing or moving heavy industries and coal-fired furnaces is good for air quality in the city but not so good for GDP. What sort of impact will the new environment protection plans have on the economy? Is it a price China has to pay?
Q7. It seems a lot of people have decided not to wait for cleaner air in China. A recent survey on international migration carried out by the Center for China and Globalization found that pollution was the major reason why people were leaving the country. Nearly 70% said smog was the main reason. And a Beijing emigration agency has reported a 300% rise in business. Will smog emigration also have an impact on China’s economy?

Q8. Less developed areas in the west of China are ready to welcome heavy industries that are moved out of the smog-ridden urban areas of the east. But will that merely create a pollution problem in the west?
Q9. Premier Li said 6 million old, heavy polluting cars should be taken off the roads. But more than 20 million cars were sold in China in 2013. Will that rapid increase neutralize efforts to reduce exhaust fumes? Should restrictions on buying cars in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou be extended to the whole country?
Q10. Seventy percent of China’s energy comes from coal fired power stations. The plan is to cut that figure to 65% by 2017. The average level is less than 15% in developed countries. Why is China so dependent on coal? Does the country have any other energy sources?
Q11. China is planning to replace some coal-burning power stations with nuclear power. But we only have to look to Chernobyl in Russia and Fukushima in Japan to understand the potential risks. Is nuclear power the answer?
Q12. Renewable and clean energy is where the future lies. While people are reluctant to pay the higher prices that come with new energy, companies like Tesla Motors are finding a market for their electric cars. Are electric cars part of the solution?


Editor:James |Source:

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