BEIJING - China will step up its fight against pollution this year, moving to further cut emissions that have befouled its air, water and soil.
Delivering the work report of the government on Monday (March 5), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that this year, the country would target to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 3 per cent and continue to slash levels of major pollutants.
It would cut sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions by 3 per cent, and push polluting industries and diesel trucks to cut emissions, said Mr Li.
Cuts of 2 per cent in chemical oxygen demand and ammoniacal nitrogen emissions, a toxic pollutant found in landfills and waste products, would also be pushed through.
Speaking to 2,970 delegates from the National People's Congress (NPC), as the legislative body kicked off its annual meetings at the Great Hall of the People, Mr Li vowed that the rates of PM2.5 - a key smog indicator - will continue to decline.
"We all need to join hands and take action to build a beautiful China where the skies are blue, the land is green, and the waters are clear," he said.
He unveiled a raft of environmental protection measures to clean up and restore the environment, including the planting of more than 6.67 million hectares of forest.
China is the world's top polluter, where 40 years of breakneck growth have contaminated its farmland, rivers and air.
In 2014, Mr Li declared war on pollution during the opening of that year's NPC meetings. Since then, the country has clamped down on polluters, closing and fining factories in a bid to clean up the environment.
Mr Li said that in the past five years, notable progress had been made, pointing out that rates of PM2.5 dropped by more than 30 per cent in key areas.
China, the world's biggest consumer of coal, has also cut its consumption of the fossil fuel by 8.1 per cent, and increased its clean energy production by 6.3 per cent.
The environment is a key focus for the Chinese government. President Xi Jinping has pledged to build a moderately prosperous society by 2020, and controlling pollution is a critical benchmark to achieving this goal.
In a clear signal of the importance of safeguarding the environment, the Communist Party of China has suggested amending the Constitution to expand the role of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, to also include ecological advancement. The change is also expected to be debated during this year's NPC meetings.