China commits to cut northern air
pollution by 15 percent
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[August 24, 2017]
By David Stanway
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has pledged to
cut average concentrations of airborne particles known as PM2.5 by more
than 15 percent year-on-year in the winter months in 28 northern cities
to meet key smog targets, the environment ministry said.
In a 143-page winter smog "battleplan" posted on its website on
Thursday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said the new target,
for the October to March period, would apply to Beijing and Tianjin,
along with 26 other cities in the smog-prone provinces of Hebei, Shanxi,
Shandong and Henan.
China's efforts to control pollution have often roiled the prices of
steel, iron ore and coal with output routinely curtailed as a result of
emergency smog regulations and inspection campaigns.
China is under pressure this year to meet politically important 2017 air
quality targets. It aims to cut 2012 levels of PM2.5 by more than a
quarter in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and bring average
concentrations down to 60 micrograms per cubic meter in the Chinese
But PM2.5 averages rose in the first seven months of the year as a
result of near record-high smog in January and February, which China
blamed on "unfavorable weather conditions".
Experts still believe, however, that China remains on course to meet the
2017 targets set out in a groundbreaking air quality action plan
published by the government in 2013.
"Actually, air quality from April to June was among the best over the
last five years in Beijing and we still have confidence in achieving the
target," said Shelley Yang, a project manager at the Clean Air Alliance
of China (CAAC), a non-profit organization that includes academic,
government and corporate organizations that "care about clean air".
The extremely high PM2.5 levels in January and February will also make
it easier for cities to achieve the 15 percent cut in the new year.
The government is still leaving nothing to chance, with some of China's
smoggiest cities under pressure to complete annual steel and coal
closure targets by the end of September and implement tougher
restrictions in the following months.
[to top of second column]
Spectators wearing masks watches the men's singles match between
Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay on a
polluted day at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, China,
October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon Picture Supplied by Action
By October, big steelmaking cities like Tangshan and Handan must
have plans in place to cut output by as much as 50 percent to limit
smog during the winter heating season starting in November.
The region is also under pressure to eliminate thousands of
coal-fired boilers, further restrict coal haulage on roads and
ensure that power generators, steel mills and coking plants complete
upgrades aimed at controlling emissions before heating systems are
Hebei is responsible for a quarter of China's steel output, with
Tangshan alone producing around 100 million tonnes a year, more than
the United States. Neighboring Shanxi is China's biggest coal
producer, with more than 900 million tonnes of annual output.
In a note this week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said the
winter restrictions could also reduce primary aluminum output by
400,000 tonnes this year.
In a separate notice on Thursday, the Hebei government promised to
use an "iron fist" to deal with air pollution over the winter.
(Additional reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly in BEIJING; Editing by
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