News / Asia

China Sets Clean Air Targets

FILE - A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square in thick haze in Beijing.
FILE - A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square in thick haze in Beijing.
VOA News
After a year of record high pollution that has won Beijing unwanted international acclaim and domestic disdain, China has set ambitious clean air targets and ordered cities to cut toxic emissions by up to 25 percent in the next three years.

The move is seen as the latest signal of Beijing's resolve to impose stricter environmental standards on its provinces, which so far have been largely judged on their economic record alone.

The targets include the reduction of two kinds of toxic particles, PM 2.5 and PM 10, which are the main pollutant matters in the air.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which issued the targets Tuesday, emission cuts will vary between regions taking into account both the level of pollution recorded and the area's economic needs.

Areas relatively more polluted and developed like Beijing, Tianjin and the neighboring province of Hebei are subject to the highest reduction, and will have to decrease their PM 2.5 concentration by 25 percent by 2017. Other areas, such as Inner Mongolia, will have to reduce PM 2.5 by 10 percent.

Analysts in China have welcomed the move, which they say shows the central government's resolve to address one of the biggest health concerns for urban dwellers in China. But some are cautious about whether cities can fall in line.

Ma Yongliang, an environmental professor at Tsinghua University, says the targets will be difficult to reach since the country is still pushing for economic growth in many of its underdeveloped regions.

“The demand for resources to fuel the economy is not going to change, and demand for coal is actually increasing,” he says.

Coal, China's largest source of energy, is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution.

The government has been trying to diversify its power mix and put caps on future coal production. But the cost and scarcity of cleaner resources such as natural gas, solar energy and wind have left coal the most palatable option for fast and cheap development.

“To cut coal, it would take a complete re-adjusting of China's economic structure and that in turn would have a negative impact on growth,” Ma says.

Yet such a re-adjustment is underway, at least judging by the pronouncements of many top Chinese officials.

In December, the Central Organization Department - a powerful organ of the party in charge of managing cadres' promotions - issued a directive explicitly stating that the routine review of local administrators will not be based on GDP growth alone.

Although the document did not offer an alternative measure that included environmental targets, other departments - such as the Environmental Protection Ministry - testified to an increased focus on combating the ill effects of industrial development.

China's air pollution, which a World Health Organization study says is responsible for up to 500,000 premature deaths each year, is one of the most visible downsides of China's staggering GDP growth.

Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at the Beijing University School of Public Health, says although the new air targets do not state it explicitly, officials will be directly responsible for their area's air quality.

“They have personally signed an agreement, and if they fail to reach the target, they will be held accountable,” Pan says. “Not only might they not get promoted, but they could even be removed from their post.”

Tuesday's paper offered some advice on how to cut air pollutants, including reducing coal use, eliminating outdated industrial capacity and managing car use.

Last year was an especially bad year for air across China. Despite efforts by the government, many cities experienced record levels of pollution that prompted some localities to shut down schools and businesses.

In the capital Beijing, one in six days was heavily polluted according to the Chinese media.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sun from: Taipei
January 09, 2014 8:49 AM
PRC is responsible for lung-cancer deaths not only in China but also in other neighboring countries. Even if clean air targets are set, improvement will never be expected because corruption and bribery between local officials and pollutant emitters (plant owners) deter the agreement for reduction of the pollution.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid