China's abrupt economic slowing has cut pollution, but environmental advocates worry the government's desire to bolster growth and jobs may encourage its 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus plan into laxly regulated cement, steel and coke plants and deter effective environmental scrutiny of new projects.
Friends of Nature, a Chinese environmental group, issued a letter to the National People's Congress now meeting in Beijing urging delegates to ensure the stimulus spending announced late last year goes to clean projects.
"Use the 4 trillion yuan investment to pioneer a green, low-carbon economy," said the letter, issued at a news conference.
"Don't sacrifice the long-term objectives of conserving energy and reducing emissions for the sake of protecting high energy-consuming industries that have no future."
The government has said it will stick to its efforts to cut pollution and raise energy efficiency and that projects seeking money from the stimulus funds must pass environmental assessment.
"We will make every effort to save energy and reduce pollution," the National Development and Reform Commission, which steers industrial policy, said in a report to the annual session of the Communist Party-controlled parliament.
The government set a target of cutting two benchmark pollution measures by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010 and improving "energy intensity" the fuel needed to generate each dollar of national income by 20 percent by the same date.
But some experts at the release of the letter and an accompanying report on China's environment were not confident that such promises can be met when local officials are fixed on protecting growth, revenues and jobs.
"To fundamentally overcome these problems, we must transform the mode of growth," said Li Dun, a public policy professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
"Without comprehensive reform... it will be difficult to fundamentally transform the environment."