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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid