Asia

China premier pledges: 'We will make our skies blue again'

  • Minority delegates arrive to the Great Hall of the People to attend the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2017. China's top leadership as well as thousands of delegates from around the country are gathered at the Chinese capital for the annual legislature meetings. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Minority delegates arrive to the Great Hall of the People to attend the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2017. China's top leadership as well as thousands of delegates from around the country are gathered at the Chinese capital for the annual legislature meetings. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Local and foreign journalists line up to enter the Great Hall of the People to cover the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2017. China's top leadership as well as thousands of delegates from around the country are gathered at the Chinese capital for the annual legislature meetings. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Local and foreign journalists line up to enter the Great Hall of the People to cover the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2017. China's top leadership as well as thousands of delegates from around the country are gathered at the Chinese capital for the annual legislature meetings. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Local and foreign journalists line up to enter the Great Hall of the People to cover the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2017. China's top leadership as well as thousands of delegates from around the country are gathered at the Chinese capital for the annual legislature meetings. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Local and foreign journalists line up to enter the Great Hall of the People to cover the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2017. China's top leadership as well as thousands of delegates from around the country are gathered at the Chinese capital for the annual legislature meetings. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)  (The Associated Press)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to make the country's skies blue again and "work faster" to address pollution caused by coal burning.

His words to delegates at the opening of the National People's Congress highlight how reducing smog has become a priority for the leadership because of public discontent.

In a report to China's ceremonial legislature, Li said that "people are desperately hoping for" faster progress in improving air quality.

He said the government intends over the next year to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants and prioritize the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid.

Lauri Myllyvirta of Greenpeace welcomed the statements and said the government was "really building on measures that were taken in the last couple of years."