Beijing announces strict new curbs on heavy industry to combat smog

New measures to combat smog, including strict curbs on heavy industry and stiffer fines, but critics argue city could have been even tougher

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 8:25am

Beijing has banned new heavily polluting industrial plants and expansions of existing ones in the first local clean air act on the mainland aimed at tackling smog.

Violators of pollution discharge limits will also face stiffer penalties.

The city's regulation on air pollution prevention, which will take effect from March 1, states that tackling the tiny particulate pollutants that cause smog is at the centre of Beijing's clean-up campaign, according to the document posted on the municipal government's website.

The announcement came as Beijing's weather bureau issued another blue alert for smog - the lowest of four levels - last night, forecasting pollution will linger until tomorrow.

Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said last week that the capital would spend 760 billion yuan (HK$970 billion) in the fight against smog after the city pledged in September to cut levels of PM2.5, particulate matters smaller than 2.5 microns, by 25 per cent by 2017.

The city would set caps for coal consumption and emissions of major air pollutants under the regulation. New and expanded projects including oil refining, cement, coking, and steel would be banned. All thermal plants powered by fossil fuels would have to switch to clean energy.

Law enforcers would be empowered to penalise frequent violators at multiple times the regular fine of up to 500,000 yuan.

However, Dr Yang Fuqiang, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defence Council, said the overall fine rates were still "rather low" and may not be able to successfully deter polluters.

"Beijing has set quite specific rules for all kinds of pollution sources - industrial facilities and vehicles - and the standards are also quite tough, but some elements are still missing to make the regulation more biting," said Yang.

For instance, the regulation did not adopt a provision that allowed a daily penalty for violations, which had proved most effective in deterring polluters in other countries.

Li Xiaojuan, director of the legal office of Beijing legislature's standing committee, explained to delegates that Beijing would adopt the item after it was included in the national air pollution prevention law, which was now under revision.

However, the regulation left little space for public supervision, as it still did not allow public interest litigation against polluters and mentioned little about pollution data transparency , according to Yang.

"Beijing could have been more aggressive in taking a lead in tackling the city's notorious air pollution," said Yang.

Watch: Beijing's air pollution level 'off the charts'