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China to tackle air pollution with new plan
by Staff Writers
Beijing (UPI) Jul 25, 2013


China to spend $277 billion on improving air quality
Beijing (AFP) July 25, 2013 - China's government plans to spend 1,700 billion yuan ($277 billion) to tackle air pollution over the next five years, state media reported Thursday, after smog became a major source of social discontent.

The money will be spent on reducing concentrations of damaging particles known as PM2.5 in the air, the state-run China Daily newspaper cited an official as saying.

Across China, levels of PM2.5 -- tiny particles that are generated by burning coal and can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing damage -- regularly exceed limits suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Officials aim to reduce PM2.5 emissions in key cities including Beijing by around 25 percent compared to 2012 levels by 2017, the report said.

The plan would mean PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing will reach around 60 micrograms per cubic meter by 2017, the report said -- still several times above the WHO's limit.

The report did not provide details of how the targets would be met. China's environmental ministry was not immediately available to comment.

An especially heavy wave of pollution earlier this year stoked popular discontent, prompting China's government to announce measures to improve air quality -- including rating officials' performance on air quality ratings in their regions.

A decades-old Chinese policy of giving out free coal for winter heating in the north of the country has reduced life expectancy there by more than five years, a study released earlier this month by a US scientific journal said.

China is mostly reliant on coal for power, and its consumption of fossil fuels grew rapidly in recent decades as the country's economy expanded to become the world's second largest.

China's coal consumption is expected to continue to grow -- although Beijing has set a target of raising non-fossil energy use to 15 percent of its total consumption by 2020, up from 10 percent in 2010.

The Chinese government has announced a $277 billion initiative to tackle air pollution.

The Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan aims to reduce emissions by 25 percent from 2012 levels by 2017 and specifically targets North China, especially Beijing and the provinces of Tianjin and Hebei, China Daily reported Wednesday.

"The Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province area is the most stringently targeted because airborne pollution is most serious in this area," the state-run newspaper quoted Wang Jinnan, vice president of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning as saying during the Eco-Forum Global Annual Conference Saturday in Guiyang, Guizhou province. Wang participated in drafting the new pollution plan.

"The central government is determined to curb emissions in energy-consuming and highly polluting industries," state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian as saying at the conference.

Zhao Hualin, head of the pollution prevention and control department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said the air pollution plan is just one of three plans that will be released in the next five years, China Daily reported. Other areas to be addressed include water pollution control and improvements to the rural environment.

Beijing and other northern Chinese cities have experienced severe levels of pollution particularly since January, when Beijing's air quality index regularly exceeded 500, the scale's maximum reading.

"The thick smog and haze that covered large areas of the country in January has focused public attention on this issue," Zhao said.

A study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said air pollution causes people in northern China to live an average of 5.5 years less than their southern counterparts.

An April report in The New York Times cited a study led by Washington University and the World Health Organization determining outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total.

Last December, just a month before the onset of exceptional levels of smog in Beijing, the government announced an air pollution reduction plan for 13 major areas covering 117 cities aimed at cutting the level of particulates in the air at least 5 percent by 2015. That initiative was announced at the U.N. climate change talks in Doha.

The World Health Organization recommends particulate levels be kept to less than 25 micrograms per cubic meter. In January, Beijing air quality levels reached nearly 900 micrograms.

However, Chai Fahe, vice president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences told China Daily government leaders concluded after the plan had been released in December, a tougher approach against air pollution was needed, China Daily reported.

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