Via Nature News & Comment: Fight against smog ramps up. Excerpt:
After decades of breakneck economic development, China is being plagued with choking pollution on an unprecedented scale. The smog over many cities reached new levels in the run-up to Chinese New Year on 31 January, creating havoc for holiday travellers. The government advised citizens to refrain from using fireworks and to stay indoors.
But change is in the air. On 12 February, China’s cabinet announced that the government will implement a series of measures aimed at shifting the primary energy source from coal to natural gas and renewables; place tougher controls over emissions; and set up a 10-billion-renminbi (US$1.7-billion) fund to help companies to meet new environmental standards.
A key feature will be an emphasis on using economic incentives — such as pricing mechanisms that favour cleaner alternatives to coal and crude oil, as well as taxation and requirements for investors to support only green energy companies — to encourage industry to reduce emissions and to foster the development of clean technologies, the cabinet said in a statement.
The announcement forms part of an ambitious 1.7-trillion-renminbi scheme to drastically improve air quality across China by 2017. The targets of the initiative, announced last September, include cutting atmospheric levels of PM10 — particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less — in all major cities by 10% from the 2012 level.
The government also aims to reduce the proportion of coal used in power production by nearly 2%, to improve fuel standards, to phase out highly polluting vehicles and to limit the number of cars in big cities.
Tougher targets have been set for three particularly smog-ridden regions: the Greater Beijing area, the Yangtze River Delta in eastern China and the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province. By 2017, each must reduce its atmospheric levels of the finer PM2.5 — by 25%, 20% and 15%, respectively. “This will require a regional approach” rather than leaving individual cities to their own devices, said Zhai Qing, a vice-minister for environment, last week.
Click through for the full report, which points out some considerable challenges to this program.