Air Clean Up

How Will China Curb Winter Smog?

Nov 18 2017 Comments 0

The Chinese authorities have signalled their intention to curb winter smog by introducing strict measures against industrial activity in the biggest coal producing region in the country, two weeks ahead of schedule.

Shanxi province, located in the northeast of the nation and just southwest of Beijing, was due to impose restrictions on its aluminium, ceramics, coking coal and steel industries in the middle of the month, but instead brought in the measures on the 4th November. The acceleration of the schedule comes as a response to the prediction of poor weather by forecasters at the start of the month.

The worst of a bad bunch

China has long endured a reputation as one of the most polluting countries on the planet. As recently as 2011, it was found that Chinese power plants emit as much nitrous oxides NOx as all the passenger cars in the world and its capital has suffered from red alert levels of pollution on numerous occasions this year.

As the biggest coal producers in the country, Shanxi province are responsible for much of these emissions. Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced that 28 cities in the north of the nation (including four in Shanxi) would reduce the concentration of the harmful toxin particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) by 15% or more from October 2017 to March 2018.

Turning a new leaf?

Those aims are indicative of a new era in air quality monitoring in China, which has seen the country spend more on tackling its air quality crisis than any other nation in the world and pursue an aggressive policy of renewable technology.

Shanxi didn’t just agree with the national targets – it went even further. In the same period, it asked its 11 constituent municipalities to bring PM2.5 concentration levels down by between 25% and 50%.

Following the trend, the provincial capital Taiyuan announced plans to cut PM2.5 by 45% and Linfen, another major offender when it comes to pollution, targeted a decrease of 50%. Meanwhile, the aluminium-producing stronghold of Luliang is hoping to bring down concentration levels by 40% before March of next year.

Greater localised accountability

The local environmental protection bureau in China has indicated that responsibility for not meeting these ambitious targets will fall on the heads of the local leaders themselves. Each of the Communist Party chiefs in the 11 municipalities will be held accountable should their own city not fail to live up to expectations.

Whether that will equate to a slap on the wrist or something more serious remains to be seen, but for now, the northern province has made its intentions clear with regards to tackling the problems of coal production and cleaning up air quality this winter.

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