Beijing and neighbouring region to set up anti-smog agency
The smog prone northern Chinese region of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province will set up a joint environmental protection agency in an effort to coordinate the area’s war on pollution, the official China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday.
The new agency, part of wider efforts to improve cross-region environmental governance, will be in place by the end of the year, the paper said, citing Ministry of Environmental Protection officials.
The region, also known as Jing-Jin-Ji, was home to eight of China’s 10 smoggiest cities in September and is involved in a winter campaign that will slash industrial output and restrict traffic in a bid to meet air quality targets.
Creating unified environmental standards across the region was a key element of a regional economic integration plan launched by President Xi Jinping in 2014.
According to academic studies, around a third of the smog drifting across the capital, Beijing, originates in neighbouring Hebei, China’s biggest steel producing region and also a major producer of cement.
Regulators have already promised to establish a unified system of environmental governance that will create cross-regional emission standards and prevent non-compliant firms in Beijing from shifting operations to neighbouring Hebei.
They have also vowed to implement coordinated emergency response plans during heavy smog outbreaks.
About 1.8 million Chinese died as a result of environmental pollution in 2015, according to a study published last month in the Lancet.
The 1.8 million deaths reported for China was significantly higher than the 1.1 million estimated by the United States-based Health Effects Institute released earlier this year.
In rapidly industrialising countries like India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Madagascar, pollution was responsible for up to a quarter of all deaths, the report said.
Between eight million and nine million people die in China every year – according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics – which means, based on the study’s data, that 20 to 22.5 per cent are linked to pollution.