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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs