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Green fight "goes beyond pollution"

Environmental protection is about choosing the right path for economic growth and the right consumption model, beyond pollution control, environment minister Zhou Shengxian said on Friday, June 5.

"We have not successfully put the brakes on severe pollution - a result of the country's vulnerable ecosystems, large population, extensive economic growth that relies heavily on resource consumption and unsound environmental supervision systems," said Zhou at a ceremony to mark World Environment Day, which falls on Saturday.

The country needs to step up its green economic policies to facilitate the shift to a "highly effective and low-emission" growth mode, Zhou said.

To that effect, the Ministry of Environmental Protection will continue to promote the reform of energy use and pricing to reflect market demand and supply, resource shortages and environmental prices, he said.

A tax system that encourages energy saving and environmental protection will be established, and the existing environmental economic policy tools, such as green security, green purchase and green trade, will be improved, Zhou said.

Encouraging a green lifestyle has also been highlighted as a crucial measure to curb excessive consumption and reduce emissions.

Consumption choices, such as preferences for smaller cars and energy-efficient appliances, could have deep impact on green production, analysts have said.

Faced with mounting challenges to fight the country's environmental problems, Zhou was particularly concerned that with the strong economic rebound, emissions may rise again as production capacity expands.

"In some places, backward facilities or enterprises which have already been phased out may surface again," Zhou said.

In the first quarter of this year, China already saw a 1.2 percent increase in the emissions of sulfur dioxide, a major air pollutant, compared with the same period last year, as the country's economic growth accelerated to 11.9 percent.

China has witnessed a steady drop major air and water pollutants in the past three years, thanks to stringent environmental regulations and the closure of highly polluting, energy intensive companies.

Still, new environmental problems such as heavy metal pollution have also emerged in recent years, Zhou said.

The ministry received 12 cases related to heavy metal pollution last year, with 4,035 people suffering excessive blood lead levels and 182 people afflicted with excessive cadmium levels.

"We have also seen an increase in the frequency of severe pollution accidents throughout the country," Zhou said.

Last year, the country recorded 171 emergency pollution cases, a 26.7 percent rise year-on-year.

Last February, 1 million residents of Yancheng, Jiangsu province, were reportedly left without tap water after highly toxic carbolic acid from a local chemical company contaminated drinking water sources.

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