Q and A: Chinese Premier's pollution vow
BEIJING, China – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed Wednesday, March 5, to "declare war" on pollution, which has become a key concern for the country's 1.36 billion people.
Q: What has been promised?
In a nutshell, China will improve the structure of its industrial base, raise energy efficiency, reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and prevent or monitor wind-borne dust.
Li said the government would shut down 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces this year, clean up coal-burning power plants and take six million high-emission vehicles off the roads.
China will impose a ceiling on total energy consumption – but Li gave no figure – and will continue to raise the proportion of electricity generated by non-fossil fuels. Li did not specifically promise to reduce coal use.
Q: Will it work?
Much of China's anti-smog drive relies on shutting down or regulating the smaller enterprises in its heavy industries, and placing stricter controls on the larger high-polluting steel mills which have their own power plants.
While the central government seems sincere, it will face severe problems forcing the provinces to adopt strict regulations.
"The achievement of those air pollution targets would probably mean the closing down of factories and the losing of jobs, and that is a choice local government is still hesitant to make," Li Yan, from Beijing's Greenpeace office, told Agence France-Presse.
Q What has China done in the past?
When the eyes of the world were on Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, the city strictly restricted car use for two months or more. Construction work ceased and factories were shut down. Toxic emissions were cut by 60% as a result.
During serious bouts of pollution large cities such as Beijing take emergency short-term measures which include halting officials' cars and shutting factories.
Beijing's decision to release pollution data from 2012 has helped push the issue to the top of the political agenda. But a long-term strategy – which includes dealing with severe pollution in second-tier and provincial cities – has not been implemented.
Q What's been promised before and what happened?
Beijing said in 2012 that it would get rid of 1,200 high-polluting enterprises by 2015 and would tackle vehicle emissions.
Plans to conserve energy, reduce emissions and prevent or control pollution have been mooted before, along with proposals to expand oil, natural gas and electric power networks.
Beijing set up bicycle rental kiosks to try to ease congestion. The province of Hubei – in the northern rustbelt – said it had closed small coal-fired power generators with a total capacity of 738,000 kilowatts by late last year. A report by Goldman Sachs in December said steel output had slipped due to anti-pollution measures. – Rappler.com