China says poorly prepared to fight impact of climate change

BEIJING Mon Dec 9, 2013 7:47am GMT

A man wears a face mask while walking on the Bund in front of the financial district of Pudong during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

A man wears a face mask while walking on the Bund in front of the financial district of Pudong during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai December 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China is poorly prepared to tackle the impact of climate change that presents a serious threat to the country, thanks to a lack of planning and public awareness, the government said on Monday.

The world's most populous country already faces challenges from weather extremes, with 2,000 people dying on average each year since the 1990s in natural disasters that are set to get worse, China's powerful economic planning agency said.

"Our country is a developing nation with a large population, complex climate conditions and a weak environment (situation)," the National Development and Reform Commission said in a report.

"Climate change is already a serious threat to food, water, ecological and energy security, and to people's lives and property," it added.

"The mission to deal with climate change is very arduous, but knowledge in society and ability to do this are weak across the board."

China is seeing more droughts in its northern region, with typhoons arriving earlier, wetlands drying up and sea levels rising, said the document, published in coordination with several ministries, including the Agriculture Ministry.

"In the future the rising trend of temperatures will become even more obvious, there will be even more unfavourable impacts (from climate change), and if effective measures are not taken the losses from disasters caused by extreme weather will be even more serious," the agency added.

Government steps to mitigate climate change range from building more reservoirs, providing better protection to forests and wetlands to improving weather warning systems, but the overall picture was not optimistic, the planner said.

"Although our work at dealing with climate change has achieved some successes, basic abilities have yet to be raised up, and there are many weak links in our work," it added.

China was unable to protect basic infrastructure, such as power and water supplies, from extreme weather events, and flood prevention efforts need to be spruced up, it said.

A coal-dependent manufacturing base has made China the world's biggest contributor to climate change, while high and rising local air-pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger nationwide.

In recent months, officials have outlined new policies to fight the problem, on top of steep renewable energy targets in the current five-year plan.

China's pollution is expected to continue growing well into the next decade, albeit at a slower pace, as it has little choice but to rely on fossil fuels to develop its western interior.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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