According to a recent announcement by the Chinese government, the country needs to cut its emissions by as much as half before it can see any serious environmental improvements. Reuters reports that China’s deputy minister of environmental protection Zhai Qing told a briefing over the weekend that pollutants have been cut only “a few percentage points” since 2006, and much more is needed before any progress can be made.

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“According to expert assessments, emissions will have to fall another 30-50 percent below current levels if we are to see noticeable changes in environmental quality,” Zhai said. China launched a “war on pollution” last year, which would see the country shut down large amounts of heavy industrial capacity and dramatically cutt coal consumption in heavily populated areas.

Respiratory and heart diseases caused by air pollution are currently the leading cause of death in China. And the air isn’t the most significant problem facing the Chinese. Water pollution and the lack of water is becoming a bigger problem. For decades, the Chinese have not only disregarded the environment, they have poisoned it in favor of economic growth. Waste from factories and cities is poured directly into China’s waterways. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of China’s rivers have a quality rating of three or more, meaning that it is, “unfit for human consumption,” according to the WWF.

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Further, “desertification has already swept over almost 30 percent of China’s land. Every year, this area increases by about 2,460 km2. In Inner Mongolia, residents have been forced to abandon their villages because the desertification of land is so severe.”

European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said, “China produces a new coal-fired power station every week, and will be the world’s biggest emitter of carbon-dioxide by 2030.”

Via Reuters

Lead image via Shutterstock. Second via Flickr Creative Commons, Kevin Dooley