China’s heavy polluters warned not to flout winter smog plan
Companies ‘will be shut down or be ordered to enforce capacity cuts if they exceed emission standards’, environment ministry says
China’s environment ministry issued a stern warning on Saturday to heavy industrial companies not to flout the nation’s tough emission rules – a move seen as quashing speculation that this year’s winter anti-smog campaign will be more lenient.
The warning comes after the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Thursday dropped blanket production cuts on heavy industry across northern China in its final winter anti-pollution drive and allowed local authorities to adopt flexible measures based on regional emission levels.
Shanghai benchmark rebar prices fell almost 5 per cent this week as investors speculated that production curbs would be relaxed further this year.
“Pollution emitters must not take chances [on the new plan] … They will still be shut down or be ordered to enforce capacity cuts if they exceed emission standards,” ministry spokesman Liu Youbin said at a briefing.
Improved air quality last winter showed production restrictions on heavy industry, from steel mills to coke plants, helped reduce toxic air that blankets the colder northern regions during winter when households crank up heating, mainly fuelled by coal, he said.
China would continue to carry out the curbs this year, but with more efficient measures to ensure blue skies, he said.
The yearly average concentrations of particulate matters, known as PM2.5, dropped by 35.6 per cent last year to 58 micrograms per cubic metre.
Still, forecasts of warmer temperatures, lower rainfall and wind in the north compared with last year may increase smog this winter, Liu said.
The government has said it aims to reduce average PM2.5 reading by about 3 per cent this winter from the level last year.
Also on Saturday, Jincheng in Shanxi province became the latest city to issue its winter anti-pollution plan, telling coke makers to shut 30 per cent of capacity from Monday and steel mills to cut output from November 15.