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UPDATED: December 6, 2012
China Releases Air Pollution Reduction Plan

The Chinese Government plans to further cut emissions of gas and pollutants in economically dynamic areas.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP)'s plan for reducing overall air pollution for the 2011-2015 period on Wednesday, China will cut the PM2.5 intensity by at least 5 percent by 2015 in 13 major areas covering 117 cities.

It also made a commitment to reduce the intensity of PM10, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide by 10 percent, 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter, while PM10 refers to particulate matter 10 microns or less in diameter.

For the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta region and the Pearl River Delta region, the PM2.5 intensity will be cut by at least 6 percent, the plan said.

The 13 major areas produce nearly half of the nation's SO2, nitric oxide, smoke and dust.

For PM2.5 issues, the plan not only sets an improvement target, but also lays equal stress on treating primary and secondary pollution. Smoke, dust and VOC (volatile organic compounds) are also included in its emissions reduction agenda.

The State Council, or China's cabinet, passed revised air quality standards that include indices for ozone and PM2.5 earlier this year and stipulated a deadline of January 1, 2016 for its implementation throughout the nation.

PM10 was previously used as part of the country's air quality standards before being replaced by the PM2.5 index, which measures finer particles that are considered more hazardous to health than larger ones.

China's atmospheric environmental condition remains arduous, however, as 70 percent of Chinese cities fail to meet the new air quality standards, said Zhao Hualin, head of the MEP Department of Pollution Prevention and Control.

"The starting point of the plan is to improve air quality and resolve the PM2.5 problem, an issue directly related to and most concerned by people," said Zhao, adding its fundamental goal is to protect people's health and ensure their environmental rights and interests

Zhao proposed adding indices for PM2.5, carbon monoxide and ozone in monitoring sites of every city in China.

According to the plan, China will strive to reduce the amount of fine particles and pollutant in the air by strengthening controls over industrial waste treatment and auto emissions.

China will vigorously develop city bus and rail transportation systems and explore ways of regulating vehicle totality and trips, promote upgrading of vehicle fuels, strict emissions of newly-produced cars and eliminate high-emission vehicles.

The plan meted out an "offset measure," stipulating that the newly produced emissions from new projects in a region must be offset by reducing a larger amount of emissions from other projects in the region.

Programs related to steel, cement and petrifaction will be strictly limited in the 13 major areas. It also urged curbing regional coal consumption and boosting regional cooperation in forming a joint defense against air pollution.

The plan is regarded as further demonstration of China's resolve in realizing its reduction promise -- to cut its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent from the level of 2005 by 2020.

Doing its bit to keep emissions within targets, China has strived to set itself as a good example in cutting emissions and play a constructive role in pushing forward world climate negotiations.

In the ongoing climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, Xie Zhenhua, the head of the Chinese delegation, reiterated the country's willingness to discuss binding emissions cuts after 2020.

Xie said China will keep an open mind in international climate talks on the basis of "fairness" and the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," which was challenged by some wealthy countries, including the United States.

The U.S. claimed that the future agreement on coping with climate change should be based on "real-world" considerations and it should not specify different responsibilities for rich and poor countries, ignoring the equity in bearing obligations and the limited capacities of the developing countries

The world is expecting a positive result about the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which was reached in 1997 and will expire at the end of the year.

(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2012)

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