China's state council has announced plans to elevate environmental protection into a "pillar industry", in a new push towards a greener economy.

Under the scheme, investment in clean technologies to save energy and tackle pollution will receive government support.

China's state cabinet has committed itself to ensure that the environmental protection industry grows by 15 per cent annually to generate a turnover of $810 billion dollars by 2015.

Li Yan, the Head of Climate and Energy Campaign for Greenpeace East Asia, told Radio Australia's the policy promoting environmental protection industries is different from the old ones like the solar panel industry.

"With those policies the intention was really about GDP growth, to create new industry opportunities and make more money," Ms Yan said.

"The intention of this new policy is to tackle environmental problems and to save energy, and make smart use of energy."

Nine categories have been outlined as priority areas for investment, including technologies to prevent air pollution, to monitor PM2.5 floating particles that can settle in lungs and to reduce sulphur dioxide and other pollutants in emissions.

The plan suggests China is accelerating efforts to become a world leader in clean technology.

Ms Yan, however, says pollution will continue to be a problem for China so long as there is no disincentive.

"They find the pollution discharge too cheap compared to the cost of installing and running the pollution alleviation equipment," she said.

China's plans to accelerate investment in environmental technologies come as social unrest, caused by environmental disasters and threats to public health, continues to spread.

Smog over the northern cities in January and the discovery of rotting pig carcasses in a river that supplies Shanghai's water in March, generated public outcry that has alarmed the authorities in Beijing.

China is already investing $375 billion dollars in energy savings and emissions reduction in the 5 years through to 2015.

Now it will expand this to other areas including research into environmentally friendly vehicles.

Ms Yan says China's success at tackling pollution and reducing carbon emissions will depend on its future growth paradigm.

"For China the major task is switch its growth paradigm," she said.

"It cannot continue its really unsustainable way of growth. So actually tackling climate change is in China's own interests."


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