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Green axe hangs over local officials
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About 60 percent provincial and regional government officials' career success depends on their achievements in saving energy and protecting the environment, a top development official said Thursday.

The central government announced last year that local government officials' promotions would depend not only on economic growth, but also on their environmental efforts. Which means they will not be promoted if they fail to achieve their green targets.

Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the progress made since is a "great achievement" despite some local officials' "slow response".

China has vowed to cut its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent by 2010.

It also vowed to cut pollutant emission by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).

The central government has told all provinces and autonomous regions to cut their share, taking the 2005 level as the benchmark. So "the local governments' performance is vital to the nation's goal", Xie said.

But the energy saving story is still "grim", Xie said, even though the officials' performances are yet to be assessed. They will be judged on a five-yearly basis.

In 2006, China managed to reduce the use of energy by 1.23 percent, though the target was 4 percent. It reached closer to its target last year, but still fell short by 0.34 percentage points.

The first half of this year saw a reduction of 2.88 percent, only 0.1 percentage point better year-on-year.

Only Beijing has been able to meet its energy saving target in the last two years if we assess the performance on a region-by-region basis.

But Xie still believes the country can meet its five-year goal.

Apart from economic growth and environmental protection, the other criteria to assess officials' performance are energy conservation, implementation of the family planning program and workplace safety rules. Failure to meet any of these targets would cost an official his promotion.

Executives of leading State-owned enterprises (SOE), too, will be judged on the basis of their green performance, Xie said. "We have already included the top managers of the 154 enterprises directly under the central government in the assessment."

(China Daily August 15, 2008)

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