All 31 provincial governments have signed up for specific air pollution pledges for the next four years as the mainland's leadership struggles to deal with worsening smog.
Eleven municipalities and provinces - mostly industrialised and economically well-off regions - are now required to cut levels of PM2.5, particulates smaller than 2.5 microns considered most hazardous to health, by 10 to 25 per cent by 2017 under an extended programme to tackle the smog-induced pollutants, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement late on Tuesday.
The metropolis of Chongqing, coal-rich Shanxi and Inner Mongolia , and populous Shandong have been assigned targets to cut PM2.5 levels by between 10 and 20 per cent. Previously only industrialised city clusters around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have adopted such goals.
Yunnan and Hainan provinces, and the Tibetan autonomous region , have been asked to keep improving their air quality, but with no specific targets given, while the other provinces will have to cut their levels of the larger PM10 by between five and 15 per cent, the ministry said.
The provincial targets offer a detailed breakdown of the country's clean-air action plan that runs until 2017, which was unveiled by the State Council in September. The move suggests that the central government is pushing local administrations to take greater responsibility to address worsening air pollution.
The State Council will evaluate each province's progress annually, and officials who fail to meet targets will be "summoned for a talk" by the environmental ministry, the statement said.
In November the top leadership pledged to drop the growth-at-all-cost mentality by reforming a system to appraise local officials, giving more weight to environmental protection.
The environmental ministry has used similar approaches in previous campaigns to tackle pollution but the effect has been limited, said Huang Wei , a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace.
"If these goals are not taken seriously, the smog problem will only get worse," she said.
The National Meteorological Centre said last week that the mainland had recorded more smoggy days in 2013 than any other year since 1961.
Watch: Heavy smog blanketing several eastern cities in ChinaTopics: China air pollution