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China cracks down on polluting factories

BEIJING, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The Chinese government has ordered more than 2,000 factories in 18 different sectors to shut down for inefficient and polluting industrial capacity.

The shutdowns, announced by the ministry of industry and information technology, appear to be a last-ditch effort to reach the government's target of reducing its energy intensity by 20 percent from the 2005 level by the end of this year.

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Energy intensity reflects the amount used to generate each unit of gross domestic product.

The Chinese government was "really struggling" to implement the 20 percent intensity target, Yang Ailun of Greenpeace told The Guardian newspaper.

"Given that there's only half a year left, they really have to take more dramatic measures to meet it. The only kind(s) of policies that can work within a very short time are shutdowns," Ailun said.

Urging all levels of China's government to work with an "iron hand" to reach energy efficiency targets, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in May called for stricter control over high-energy-consuming and high-polluting sectors.

That was after the country's energy intensity rose 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year following a decline of 14.38 percent during the previous four years to 2009. The second quarter showed an improvement, however, with energy intensity falling by 9 percent over the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2009.

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The new crackdown doesn't necessarily mean all the factories will be completely shut down. For some offenders, just the most polluting units will be affected.

The order includes 762 cement factories, 279 paper mills, 175 steel mills and 192 coking plants.

A statement posted on the ministry's Web site said the factories on its list wouldn't be able to obtain bank loans, export credits, business licenses and land. Companies have until the end of September to comply.

"There is no doubt this announcement is significant, especially because it is complete with real consequences," Alex Wang, of the Natural Resources Defense Council told The Guardian.

The World Bank says China's industries use 20 to 100 percent more energy per unit of output than their counterparts in the United States, Japan and other countries.

China has surpassed the United States as the world's biggest energy user, new data last month from the International Energy Agency indicate. The world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, China also aims to cut carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 40 to 45 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

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