China’s cabinet has announced that 10 billion yuan (HK$12.7 billion) has been set aside this year to reward cities and regions that make significant progress in controlling air pollution, highlighting how the issue has become a priority for the leadership.
The fund will be set up to reward rather than offer subsidies for the prevention and control of air pollution in the key areas, according to a statement released after a Wednesday meeting of the State Council led by Premier Li Keqiang. It said controlling pollutants such as particulate matter in the air should be a key task.
Pollution is a rising concern for China’s stability-obsessed leaders, keen to douse potential unrest as affluent city dwellers turn against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has tainted much of the country’s air, water and soil.
The statement said the consumption of coal should be controlled and also called for increased efforts to promote high-quality petrol for vehicles, energy saving in construction and the use of environmentally friendly boilers.
The government is eager to bring about a visible improvement in China’s bad air, which has caused discontent among its citizens and tarnished the country’s image abroad.
China’s smog has brought some Chinese cities to a near standstill, caused flight delays and forced schools to shut.
Beijing was hit by severe levels of pollution at least once every week, according to the 2012 Blue Paper for World Cities report. That was on top of a significant level of air pollution covering the capital for 189 days in 2013, according to city’s Environmental Protection Bureau.
While heavily polluting industries have emissions standards, they are not necessarily enforced, and local governments often still favour pollution-intensive projects that can generate growth, which is what their performance is judged on.
Overall the government has pledged to spend over 3 trillion yuan ($494.85 billion) to tackle the problem, creating a growing market for companies that can help boost energy efficiency and lower emissions.
Beijing will also shut 300 polluting factories this year and publish a list of industrial projects to be halted or suspended by the end of April, state news agency Xinhua said, citing a document detailing the capital’s action plan to 2017 to clean up its air. Energy and pollution-intensive projects such as steel and cement are not to be approved on principle, it said.
Pollution campaigners have cautioned that the capital’s pollution can’t just be tackled on a city-wide basis, because much of Beijing’s pollution wafts in from the surrounding regions.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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