A few years ago, I wrote about China's struggles to implement its own (often ambitious) clean-energy and emissions plans. Usually the pattern went like this: The central government in Beijing would make lots of nice-sounding promulgations—clean up the coal plants, make the buildings more efficient, build some wind turbines—but provincial officials, who have gained a lot of autonomy over the years, wouldn't always carry them out.

Well, it seems that's still very much a problem. China, recall, has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity—the amount of carbon per unit of GDP—by 45 percent by 2020. But the country doesn't seem on track to meet those targets, if this statement from the State Council is any indication: "The energy-saving, emissions reduction situation is very grim, particularly since the third quarter of 2009 when high energy, high emissions industries increased rapidly." That doesn't sound promising.

So now the central government seems to be in full-on panic mode and is trying a brand new tack—punishing local officials who fail to meet their targets. Authorities are also now supposed to shut off water and electricity to projects that violate the country's environmental rules. Can't fault them for not trying, I suppose.

(Flickr photo credit: David Barrie)