BEIJING, April 23 (Reuters) - China is now back on track to meet a series of mandatory targets to cut pollution and improve energy efficiency by 2015, after falling behind expectations due to strong economic growth over 2011-12, a state planning agency official said on Wednesday.
Decades of unrestrained growth has hit China's environment hard, and news of hazardous pollution levels in food has become common in recent years. Pollution has also triggered dozens of protests in the world's second-largest economy.
China has promised to tackle the severe pollution of its air, water and soil, but it admitted late last year that it was struggling to meet its energy and pollution targets for the 12th five-year plan period ending in 2015.
Central and local government authorities are now adopting tougher measures and have also developed more effective incentive mechanisms, putting China back on course to achieve its targets, said Xu Lin, director of the planning office at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
"We now have an optimistic attitude towards completing these targets requested in the 12th five-year plan." Over the 2011-2015 period, China aims to cut energy intensity - the amount of energy consumed per unit of economic growth - by 16 percent and the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 17 percent.
It also promised to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its overall energy mix to 11.4 percent. By the end of 2013, energy intensity fell 9.03 percent and carbon intensity fell 10.68 percent from 2010 levels, while non-fossil fuels supplied 9.8 percent of China's total energy needs last year, the NDRC said in a report to parliament this week.
The inability to meet environment goals over the 2011-2012 period had raised the risk of China facing a repeat of the problems of 2010, when local governments forced dozens of industrial firms to shut their operations in a last-ditch bid to meet their end-of-year energy targets.
NDRC official Xu said targets in the next five-year plan covering the 2016-2020 period were expected to be even tougher.
"It is impossible for the new plan not to reflect the demands of ordinary people and those demands are getting higher and higher," he said at a briefing.
(Reporting by Xiaoyi Shao and David Stanway; Editing by Himani Sarkar)