ENVIRONMENT

State Council announces 10 new measures to curb air pollution

Controls on worst polluters and PM2.5, adjustment to nation's energy structure among State Council measures to rid cities of choking smog

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 3:59am

The central government has taken further steps to curb air pollution, with fresh measures outlined at a cabinet meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang yesterday.

The State Council announced 10 new measures to fight air pollution in urban areas. 

The government had promised to implement stricter curbs on severe air pollution after most of the cities in the north choked on thick smog for most of the winter.

It will strictly control highly energy-intensive and polluting industries, adjust its energy structure and enhance control of PM2.5 - particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can damage health - in populated regions and cities, a statement released after the meeting said.

The government said it would eliminate overcapacity in heavily polluting industries, such as iron and steel, cement, aluminium and flat glass, earlier than the target originally set in the latest five-year plan. It also vowed to reduce major emissions by some heavily polluting industries by more than 30 per cent by the end of 2017.

During periods of heavy pollution, local governments should enact emergency management response measures, such as traffic restrictions or emissions limits for polluting industries, the cabinet said.

The government would hold regional officials accountable for achieving targets on curbing pollution set by the government and strengthen oversight by setting up an assessment system, it said.

Regional officials have long pursued rapid economic growth, with mounting costs in terms of environmental destruction and air pollution.

Zhou Rong , a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace, said the general strategies adopted in fighting air pollution were "in the right direction", though how effective they would be would depend on the details of each measure.

"For instance, the top leadership has realised the key solutions to air pollution lie in restructuring energy consumption and eliminating production of highly polluting industries," she said. "But detailed targets have yet to be announced … to see how ambitious the government really is on cleaning up the sky."

The State Council also said air quality would be included in appraising the performance of local officials. "This could bring some genuine change if the air quality issue is given a higher priority than gross domestic product growth, but it is still a big if now, given the very brief outlines of these 10 measures," Zhou said.

Following the announcement of the new measures, the revision of the mainland's outdated air pollution prevention law could be accelerated, she said.

The State Council meeting also studied the development of the solar power industry, which is suffering from overcapacity and has become a source of friction with Western trading partners.