Caixin
Aug 26, 2017 05:04 AM
ENVIRONMENT

China Outlines Plan to Clean Up Air in Country’s Notoriously Polluted North

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has unveiled a plan in which the number of heavily polluted days in China's northeast will be reduced 15% from October to March. Above, Beijing tourists take photos under clear blue skies at Tiananmen Square on Aug. 6. Photo: IC
The Ministry of Environmental Protection has unveiled a plan in which the number of heavily polluted days in China's northeast will be reduced 15% from October to March. Above, Beijing tourists take photos under clear blue skies at Tiananmen Square on Aug. 6. Photo: IC

(Beijing) — China’s environmental regulator on Thursday announced a new target to reduce the level of hazardous PM2.5 pollution in the country’s north.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection vowed to cut the average concentration of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or below — by more than 15% from October to March.

Meanwhile, the number of heavily polluted days will also be reduced by more than 15% compared to a year earlier, according to a plan published on the ministry’s website.

The targeted 28 northern cities include the provincial-level municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin, and 26 cities in Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong and Henan provinces.

The ministry will set up more than 327 monitoring stations in this region by the end of October in a bid to observe pollutant chemicals in the air such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone and PM2.5. The results will be ranked by most polluted and be available to the public.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region usually suffers from severe smog during winter in part due to the burning of coal for indoor heat. The new plan requires the 28 cities to reduce coal consumption significantly. All cities in Hebei must cut more than 6 million metric tons (6.6 tons) of coal in 2017. Beijing and Tianjin municipality must each reduce 2.6 million metric tons this year.

Thousands of coal-fired boilers in this region will be weeded out before the heating system starts in November. Beijing has a goal to eliminate 1,500 coal-fired boilers.

As one of the areas worst-hit by smog, Beijing has seen positive reductions in PM2.5 this year. It reported an average PM2.5 concentration of 64 micrograms per cubic meter from January to July, a decline of 34.7% from the same period in 2013, according to the local environment bureau.

But the capital is still under pressure to meet its target to control PM2.5 below 60 micrograms per cubic meters this year. On Monday, the local government imposed tougher restrictions on diesel trucks inside the city’s Fifth Ring Road.

On Thursday, the new plan even moved to ban the sale of diesel fuel in Beijing starting in October.

Vehicle emissions have become a bigger cause of air pollution according to a study by the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. One-third of the pollutants in Beijing’s air are contributed by vehicle emissions, as the number of vehicles in the capital has grown to over 5.6 million, the study showed.

Contact reporter Song Shiqing (shiqingsong@caixin.com)

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