Authorities in China’s capital announce tough new measures to tackle hazardous levels of air pollution
In an attempt to clean up the smoggy air in the Chinese capital, Beijing’s authorities have introduced a new set of measures to cut emissions and allocated 760 billion yuan (£75.8 billion) to improve the city’s air quality by 2017.
Last week, Beijing once again suffered hazardous levels of air pollution prompting the city’s mayor to announce an “all-out effort” to tackle the smog. Residents were advised to stay indoors as levels of fine particulate pollution known as PM2.5 reached the highest in a year. Unhealthy and even hazardous levels of air pollution have become commonplace in Beijing and in 2013 the city endured a total of 189 polluted air days.
The new measures will cut coal burning, limit car emissions and set yearly quotas for local governments and individual polluters. There will also be bigger fines for those found to be in violation of air pollution standards.
According to state media, the new measures replace a guideline which was issued in 2000 and is the “first of its kind” for the city. This will be the first time that Beijing has set targets to curb its total pollution emissions, according to Fang Li, vice head of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. The previous guideline targeted only the growth of emissions.
Yu Jianhua, the director in charge of air pollution for the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau made an amusing analogy: “If we compare smoggy Beijing to an obese man, the previous control on emission growth was like asking him to eat less, but our expectation now is that he must try harder to actually lose weight.”
The new measures are part of Beijing’s efforts to put in place a national plan introduced in September to reduce the country’s dependence on coal in order to improve air quality. A number of China’s cities are plagued with air quality problems, which has led to concerns about the environmental costs of the country’s massive economic growth.
Meanwhile a new study has found that a number of industrial plants in some of the worst polluted areas of China are exceeding pollution discharge limits. The report was issued by NGO the Institute of Public and Environmental affairs, which is headed up by one of China’s most well-known environmentalists Ma Jun, in conjunction with a number of other organisations.
By analysing real-time air quality information, the Blue Sky Roadmap report found that in some provinces in Northern China including Shandong and Hebei, some large-scale thermal power plants and steel factories had emissions that were “in serious breach of discharge standards”. It also found that even during periods of high levels of air pollution some of these plants were continuing to breach standards.
The report analysed pollution data and praised the development that since the start of January 179 cities have begun releasing real-time air quality information. This information, it stated has “provided important underlying data to help understand the sources of smog”. Residents of these cities can now access pollution data online and this information has “highlighted serious pollution, which has prompted several areas to develop emergency contingency plans for times when pollution is severe”, according to the report.
Shandong, Zhejiang and Hebei were among the first provinces to start real-time disclosure of online monitoring data. Ma Jun, director of Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs said that good practice in these provinces “helps fulfill the public’s right to know, and also helps identify the main pollution sources within that geographical region.” However in other areas that also suffer from high levels of pollution including Tianjin, Guangdong and Hunan similar data has not been published as required.