Pollution presents serious threat, China says

Reuters, BEIJING

Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - Page 6

China is poorly prepared to tackle the impact of climate change that presents a serious threat to the country, thanks to a lack of planning and public awareness, the government said yesterday.

The world’s most populous country already faces challenges from weather extremes, with 2,000 people dying on average each year since the 1990s in natural disasters that are predicted to get worse, China’s powerful economic planning agency said.

“Our country is a developing nation with a large population, complex climate conditions and a weak environment [situation],” the National Development and Reform Commission said in a report.

“Climate change is already a serious threat to food, water, ecological and energy security, and to people’s lives and property,” the report added. “The mission to deal with climate change is very arduous, but knowledge in society and ability to do this are weak across the board.”

China is seeing more droughts in its northern region, with typhoons arriving earlier, wetlands drying up and sea levels rising, stated the report, published in coordination with several ministries, including the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

“In the future, the rising trend of temperatures will become even more obvious, there will be even more unfavorable impacts [from climate change], and if effective measures are not taken, the losses from disasters caused by extreme weather will be even more serious,” the agency added.

Government steps to mitigate climate change include building more reservoirs, providing better protection to forests and wetlands and improving weather warning systems, but the overall picture was not optimistic, the report said.

“Although our work at dealing with climate change has achieved some successes, basic abilities have yet to be raised up and there are many weak links in our work,” it added.

China was unable to protect its basic infrastructure, such as power and water supplies, from extreme weather events and flood prevention efforts need to be spruced up, it said.

A coal-dependent manufacturing base has made China the world’s biggest contributor to climate change, while high and rising local air pollution levels have sparked nationwide public anger.