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By The Associated Press

BEIJING — 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.

Related: Millions in China Learn to Live With Smog 'Airpocalypse'

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."