China's premier Li Kequiang "declaring war" on pollution

China's government vows to address smog 02:02

For decades, China has pursued economic growth with little regard for the consequences. Now, that's changing. Dirty air has become too big a problem to ignore. At the opening of the National People's Congress Wednesday, fighting pollution has taken on a new urgency.

Speaking to the nearly 3,000 delegates gathered Wednesday in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, China's premier, Li Keqiang, said he was "declaring war" against pollution.

CBS News listened to the nearly two-hour long "work report" to the National People's Congress. Think of it as China's equivalent to the State of the Union address, CBS News' Doane reported from Beijing. The topics ranged from development to defense, but China's premier said environmental pollution has become a "major problem."

Li said, "(It's) a red-light warning sent by nature against the model of extensive development. We must strengthen protection of the ecological environment..."

The government's plan to reduce dangerous fine-particle pollution includes cleaning up heavy industry, closing 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces, increasing energy efficiency, and reducing vehicle emissions. Li said six million old, heavy-polluting cars should be taken off the road.

In the past few weeks, pollution levels in Beijing have been off the charts. In 2013, China, saw more smoggy days than any other year in the last half-century.