BEIJING, June 27 -- China plans to significantly increase charges on the release of pollutants and effluents, said Bi Jingquan, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission.
The move is to push companies to more actively clean up the environment by imposing greater share of the financial burden, Bi said.
The discharge cost for sewerage will be at least double the current level of 0.67 yuan per ton, while the charge on sulfur dioxide emissions may also be doubled from the current 0.63 yuan per ton, Bi told a forum held by the new China Center for Public Finance, at Peking University.
"There is a desperate need for the country to instill the principle that those creating pollution must pay the costs," he said.
In its development plan for the 2006-10 period, China said it would cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent, or 4 percent each year. It would also cut the release of major pollutants by 10 percent during that period.
However, energy consumption fell by just 1.23 percent last year.
"In the first half of this year, we have not met the set goal (for energy consumption)," Bi said. "The release of major pollutants has also not significantly declined."
The State Council, China s Cabinet, set up a special task force this month to press on with the country s campaign to cut energy consumption and pollutant release.
It has launched a series of energy-saving measures, including a strict control of the indoor temperature of public buildings and restrictions on decorative lighting for large buildings.
The Ministry of Construction said China has built 1.06 billion square meters of energy-efficient buildings, but they account for only 7 percent of the total floor space of all the existing buildings in China s urban areas.
Due to structural economic defects, many of China s industries have been heavy polluters. To improve that scenario, China has promised to build a society that is environmentally friendly and efficient in saving energy.
Bi warned that the situation remains severe.
China s major rivers and one-third of its soil have been hit by acid rain. Waste treatment is also not effective, Bi said.
China s waste treatment would cost much more if it were burned, which will require more financial input from the firms, the official said.
He revealed that the new discharge fees may be combined with utility bills - companies that do not pay the fees will not be allowed to use electricity and water supply, for example. He did not disclose when the new rules might take effect.
Bi suggested that the current environmental clean-up regime should be reformed by introducing more market mechanisms.
In some places, newly established waste burning facilities cannot find adequate waste for treatment, because the local environmental protection department encourages the waste to be transported to landfills that belong to the government.
Bi also called for a strengthened collection of fees, which is rather loose at present.