In the latest in the New York Times’ series Choking on Growth, Howard French writes about the ways that local officials are undercutting national goals to reduce energy consumption:
Beijing has so fixated on the 20 percent goal that it has become the centerpiece of its overall strategy to reduce pollution in addition to consumption, as well as its main talking point in diplomatic negotiations to curb the output of gases that cause global warming. The target has elicited support among environmentalists in China and abroad. They regard it as ambitious given the explosion of heavy industry in China, which consumes vast amounts of electricity and, as it expands, makes the overall economy less energy efficient.
Even so, the drive has mostly sputtered. According to official estimates, which in China are often overly generous, the country saved only 1.23 percent of energy per unit of output last year. In the first half of 2007, the authorities claim to have achieved 2.4 percent, double the previous year’s rate. Energy experts say they believe that the savings will increase over time, but to meet the goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2010, the country will have to reduce energy per unit of output by 4 percent a year on average, so the chances of achieving it look increasingly slim. [Full text]