War on air pollution is war on unsustainable growth, says Chinese premier

China’s leadership has put tackling air pollution high on the agenda at the closing of this year’s parliamentary gathering

China’s war on air pollution is a war on inefficient and unsustainable growth, said Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

Speaking at the close of this year’s National People’s Congress in Beijing, Li said: “We have declared war on smog because this is what society cares about. The first thing most people do these days is check PM 2.5 levels on their phone."

His comments come after a month of hazardous smog in Chinese cities, with state media criticising city officials for failing to act to reduce pollution levels.

Li said that pollution was, “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development. By declaring war on pollution, we are not declaring war on nature, but on inefficient and unsustainable growth.”

China is aiming to reduce coal use in 2014 – one method of cutting back air pollution levels – by reducing energy intensity, the amount of power consumed per unit of GDP growth by 3.9% in 2014.

Lin Boqiang, an energy economist at Xiamen University, told chinadialogue that China was trying to reduce the growth of coal consumption. “It is pretty clear that China will use more coal this year. I think the government will force coal consumption to peak before 2020 with all the anti-smog measures,” he said.