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China makes fresh promises on air pollution, pledges support for solar

MYT 11:55:01 PM

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's cabinet approved new measures to combat air pollution on Friday, in the latest step by China's new leadership to address the country's enormous environmental problems, with pollution a key source of rising social discontent in China.

The government also promised to support China's troubled solar power industry, despite problems with overcapacity and ongoing trade disputes with the United States and Europe.

A statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of buildings during a hazy day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
A statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of buildings during a hazy day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

In a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, the State Council approved 10 anti-pollution measures, the council said in a statement posted on its website late Friday.

In particular, the State Council promised to:

- Accelerate the installation of pollution control equipment on small, coal-fuelled refineries.

- Curb the growth of high-energy-consuming industries like steel, cement, aluminium, and glass.

- Reduce emissions per unit of GDP in key industries by at least 30 percent by the end of 2017.

- Improve indicators used to evaluate the environmental impact of new projects and deny administrative approvals, financing, land, and other support to projects that fail to meet high standards.

- Strengthen enforcement and collection of fees and penalties that companies pay based on their emissions.

- Use legal action to force industries to upgrade pollution controls and establish or revise industry-level emissions standards.

The country's new top leaders, who took power in a once-in-a-decade political transition late last year, have promised to tackle China's pollution problem. The government has made similar promises over the last decade, but enforcement has often been lacking, especially at the local level.

Protests over pollution are becoming more frequent in China, as the country's increasingly affluent urban population begins to object to the model of growth at all costs that has fuelled the economy for three decades.

Friday's State Council statement also acknowledged difficulties afflicting China's solar industry but pledged to maintain support for the industry through "reformed methods".

Specific measures include price support for the sale of photovoltaic electricity to electricity grids and requiring grid operators to purchase all the electricity that solar generators produce.

(Reporting by Gabriel Wildau; Editing by Michael Perry)

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