Inspection to focus on high-emission projects

As China's high-profile central environmental inspection embarks on new probes in four regions, the office in charge of the effort has vowed continuous endeavors to curb projects with high energy consumption and emissions.

Inspectors have arrived in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Guizhou and Shaanxi and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. Phone numbers and mail addresses of the four teams have been made public to allow members of the public to file reports, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, where the inspection office is based, said in a news release issued on Wednesday.

Inspection teams are usually headed by ministerial-level officials. What makes the inspection high-profile is that its inspectors report to a central leading group headed by Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

Inspectors will not only screen for new projects with high energy consumption and emissions, but also check whether local governments have cut overcapacity in existing projects as required after the previous round of inspection from 2016 to 2018, the office said.

The introduction of new smokestack projects has been listed as a major target of the inspection since September last year, when China announced its ambitious targets of peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and going carbon neutral before 2060.

Since then, inspectors have exposed 71 typical cases, 11 involving projects with high energy consumption and emissions.

Shanxi province, a major coal producer, was criticized for being indecisive in promoting a green, low-carbon transition after it was inspected from April to May.

"Some local governments and their departments are not resolute enough to promote the comprehensive green transition of economic and social development," inspectors said in a circular issued in July. "They fail to roll out effective measures."

Shanxi planned to start 178 projects with high energy consumption and emissions during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period. Their total energy consumption was estimated to be the equivalent of 59.4 million metric tons of standard coal, far exceeding the energy consumption cap set for the province, it said.

Of the 101 projects under construction or already completed, 72 were found to have failed to go through all necessary procedures, it said.

The news release issued on Wednesday emphasized the people-centered principle behind the inspection work, saying environmental violations that concern members of the public are major targets.

It asked local governments to avoid using one-size-fits-all approaches in handling violations unearthed by inspectors, especially those in industries related to people's livelihoods.

Local authorities should handle such violations in an orderly manner and should ensure that the handling of the cases will not affect the supply of heating in people's homes, it said.

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