China launches air pollution battle plan

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Source: GLOBE SERIES

The Chinese government has announced a multi-pronged plan to tackle the country's air pollution. Faced with increasing public concern China will cut coal use, shut down polluters and promote cleaner production in a bid to clean up the air under the plan.

The government aims to cut the density of particulate matter by at least 10 percent in major cities nationwide by 2017. PM 2.5, a key indicator of air pollution, should fall by about 25 percent from 2012 levels in Beijing and surrounding provincial areas by 2017, according to the plan.

The Yangtze Delta and the Pearl River Delta regions would see reductions of 20 and 15 percent, respectively, from 2012 levels over the same period.

Carrying out the plan would require an injection of funds of about 1.75 trillion yuan (around 286.06 billion U.S. dollars), according to estimates from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Less Coal Use

China will increase clean energy supply and use and further cut coal consumption, which supplies most of the country's electricity and remains a major source of air pollutant emission.

The goal is to cut total coal consumption to below 65 percent of total primary energy use by 2017 as part of the country's efforts to accelerate adjustment of its energy structure, according to the plan, which is posted on www.gov.cn.

China has become a world leader in the development and deployment of clean technologies. But China is in dire need of technological solutions to meet these growing demands and is opening its domestic market to foreign suppliers.

New projects to be constructed in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze Delta and the Pearl River Delta regions will be banned from setting up coal-fired power plants, it says.

China will boost supply of natural gas, coal-based substitute natural gas (SNG) and coal bed methane. Natural gas pipeline capacity will rise by more than 150 billion cubic meters, to service the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and both the Yangtze and Pearl River delta regions.

Under the plan, the total capacity of China's operating nuclear power reactors will reach 50 million kilowatts by 2017, and the share of non-fossil fuel energy will be raised to 13 percent of overall primary energy use.

China is eyeing a roughly 20-percent cut in energy consumption per unit of industrial value added by 2017, compared to 2012 levels, according to the plan.

Less Pollutant Sources

The government said combined heat and power plants will gradually replace decentralized coal-fired boilers in chemical engineering, papermaking, dyeing and tanning industry clusters, and the construction of particulate scrubbing facilities in coal-fired plants, steel mills and cement plants will be increased.

The plan calls for technological upgrades at refinery businesses to improve the quality of fuel oil, which affects vehicle emissions.

China will promote the upgrading of industries, and further tighten control over high-polluting and energy-intensive industries. Heavy-polluting vehicles will be removed from roads across the country by 2017 and greater efforts will be made to eliminate outdated production capacity in the iron and steel, cement, electrolytic aluminum and sheet glass sectors.

Heavier penalties will be imposed for violations of environmental, energy conservation and safety requirements, while energy conservation and environmental protection standards will be strictly implemented to support the phasing out of excess production capacity.

China has been under growing pressure to address the causes of air pollution after heavy smog smothered large swathes of the country early this year.

Beijing's average PM 2.5 density in January was 180 micrograms per cubic meter, about 30 percent higher than the level recorded during the same period in 2011.

Earlier this week Beijing municipal authorities unveiled a five-year plan to improve air quality through measures such as cutting coal consumption, promoting clean energy use and reducing production capacities with heavy pollution.

Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian acknowledged in June that China's atmospheric environment situation is grave, saying industrial restructuring and adjusting the country's energy mix are keys to addressing the problem.

'It will be an arduous task to realize these very specific and relatively high targets for environmental improvement,' said Chai Fahe, deputy head of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. 'But it's possible to achieve them.'

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