BEIJING: China, the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, has achieved the pollution reduction targets for major pollutants six months ahead of schedule, Chinese government has claimed as President Xi Jinping today left for Paris to attend the UN conference on climate change.
Xi will attend the inaugural session of the Paris meet stated to be the most crucial in clinching a global climate deal amid strong differences between the developed and developing countries.
China is the top polluter after the US in greenhouse gases.
China and the US reached an agreement last year to take ambitious action to limit greenhouse gases.
As Xi left for Paris, Environment Minister Chen Jinping said that China has attained the pollution reduction targets for major pollutants outlined in its 12th Five-Year Plan, six months ahead of schedule.
He, however, said a substantial improvement of the environment will only be possible if pollution is reduced by a further 30 to 50 per cent, he said.
His claims came as Beijing and many parts of China continued to be engulfed with hazardous smog far exceeding safe levels prompting Chinese environment authority to send special teams in Beijing and to neighbouring cities to covertly search for illegal emissions.
Recent reports also said China is under reporting coal usage to claim drastic cutdown of its usage.
In the 12th Five-Year Plan (2010-2015), China vowed to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 8 per cent and ammonia nitrogen and nitrogen oxide emissions by 10 per cent compared with 2010 levels.
Chen said that the surface area affected by acid rain in China had shrunk to 1990s levels, while water quality had also improved significantly.
China has phased out some 250,000 tonnes of ozone- depleting substances during the same period, he said.
This is more than half of the total amount phased out by all developing countries.
"Not only are we working to fix our domestic environmental problems, we have made considerable contributions to addressing international challenges, too," state-run Xinhua quoted Chen as saying.
The minister warned, however, some 20 million tonnes of major pollutants are still discharged annually in China, and that figure must be reduced by another 30 to 50 per cent.
One year after the world's second-largest economy "declared war" on pollution, following decades of pursuing growth at the expense of the environment, Chinese citizens are still concerned by air quality, particularly in the big, industrial cities in the central and eastern regions.