In an effort to reduce PM2.5 levels in northern and eastern cities this winter, China released an action plan on Tuesday outlining measures to improve air quality.
According to state-run newspaper China Daily, 41 cities in the Yangtze River Delta are required to reduce pollution by 2% while 11 northern cities of the Fenwei Plain region must lower pollution levels by 3% this winter.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) notes that this winter, in particular, is expected to have unfavorable weather. According to ministry spokesman Liu Youbin, “Higher temperatures and less rainfall since September have increased ozone density and made pollutants harder to disperse,” as cited by China Daily. Liu also noted that PM2.5 average concentration levels in winter are about double of that in other seasons, while stressing the importance of greater efforts in curbing air pollution.
The government is taking aim at two common sources of pollutants – coal-fired heating and chemical industries – which are said to be priorities in the fight to decrease pollution.
According to the plan, various pollutant-heavy industries need to redesign manufacturing methods, update facilities, incorporate ‘green’ materials, as well as improve product quality. China Daily reports that the government will provide service and aid, although it’s not clear what type of support will be given. Those who are not able to comply with the standards will be taken off the market.
As for Chinese residents, households in northern areas like Hebei, Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces will have to make the switch from coal-fired heating to methods that are more eco-friendly. However, this task has proven to be difficult to carry out, as a lack of natural gas supplies and high prices could turn northern residents back onto burning coal, according to an October study by a Beijing university and Clean Air Asia, cited by South China Morning Post.
In 2018, China issued a three-year action plan on reducing air pollution, which aims to reduce 2015 levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 15% by 2020.
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