BEIJING, Aug 2 (Reuters) - A decline in China’s energy intensity, or the amount of energy it uses to produce each unit of national income, picked up pace in the first half of 2009, the country’s top economic planner said on Sunday.
The country used 3.35 percent less energy to generate each dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) in the six months through June 2009 than a year earlier, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its Website.
This was a speedier fall than the 2.89 percent decline notched up in the first quarter, and faster than the 2.88 percent decrease registered in the same period of 2008.
China’s government is pushing to make the country more efficient to reduce reliance on overseas oil and gas and curb damaging pollution from power plants and factories -- even as its strong growth pushes up overall energy consumption.
The country has set a goal of cutting energy intensity by 20 percent over the five years to 2010. Officials abandoned a yearly reduction target of 4 percent after falling short in 2006, but the government has stuck to the overall aim.
Its efforts appear to be gathering steam after an unsteady start, and in 2008 energy intensity fell nearly 5 percent.
In the first half of this year it was also down in several key sectors, the Commission said, including power, which notched up a 9.51 percent fall, oil and petrochemicals where it was down 8.21 percent and steel with a 8.43 percent decrease.
The reductions are particularly notable because China reported surprisingly strong economic growth in the second quarter and some environmentalists feared the pick-up might have been spurred in part by laxer controls on dirty enterprises.
In recent years the efficiency drive has also been promoted by China as a key part of a slate of measures to curb growth in greenhouse emissions, as it comes under pressure as the highest annual emitter of the gasses that cause global warming.
It will be in the spotlight this December when the world tries to settle a global framework for tackling climate change at United Nations-led talks in Copenhagen
Beijing says that its emissions per capita and over the course of history are lower than those of rich nations which went through long, dirty industrialisation.
It wants technology and financing help from developed countries to help it achieve cleaner growth, arguing that it should not have to sacrifice economic progress when it is still trying to lift millions out of poverty.
The Commission also predicted that China’s emissions of sulphur dioxide, which causes acid raid, would have fallen 5 percent in the first half of 2009 and a measure of water pollution (Chemical Oxygen Demand) would be down 2 percent.
It did not say why the figures were not yet finalised. (Editing by Hans Peters)