China adopts measures to combat air pollution
Reforms a response to concerns over industrial pollution and risk of more protests leading to undermining of social order
The China Central Television building is seen next to a construction site in heavy haze in Beijing’s central business district. China is considering plans to cut coal consumption in some major industrial regions, as part of measures to reduce air pollution – an issue that has triggered a surge in public protests. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters
China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, yesterday adopted a series of measures aimed at combating air pollution and defusing growing public dissatisfaction with air and water quality.
It is the latest effort by the government to address the country’s enormous environmental problems, with pollution a key trigger of rising social discontent in China.
People are watching to see what shape Chinese efforts to reform will take. The new administration has pledged that China’s broad reform effort would also lead to improvements in environmental controls, cutting pollution in the atmosphere and raising food and water safety standards.
“Reducing air pollution is about people’s welfare and the country’s economic future,” the State Council said in a statement. “On the one hand, smog is visible and affects the life of everyone, rich and poor. It has proven that environmental crises can stir controversy and greatly undermine social stability.”
Plans to set up a PX chemical plant in cities around China have led to widespread anger.
The government also promised to support China’s troubled solar power industry, despite problems with overcapacity and ongoing trade disputes with the US and Europe.
In a meeting chaired by China’s premier Li Keqiang, the government body approved 10 anti-pollution measures, including speeding up the installation of pollution control equipment on small, coal-fuelled refineries, curbing the growth of high-energy-consuming industries such as steel, cement, aluminium, and glass and reducing emissions per unit of GDP in key industries by at least 30 per cent by the end of 2017.
The measures also call for improved indicators used to evaluate the environmental impact of new projects and deny administrative approvals, financing, land, and other support to projects failing to meet standards.
A growing environmental awareness and willingness of urban people to voice concern about industrial pollution have led the ruling Communist Party to worry about the risk of yet more protests.
“Environmental issues need comprehensive efforts from all sectors, particularly local governments. Their initiative is vital for implementing the policies and supervising enterprises. Friday’s policies urged them to act,” the China Daily reported.