Smog in N. China climbs to dangerous levels

The Shanghai Pudong Lujiazui area shrouded in thick smog yesterday. In Beijing, the high smog level triggered an orange-level pollution alert over the weekend, with residents advised to stay indoors and some factories ordered shut.
The Shanghai Pudong Lujiazui area shrouded in thick smog yesterday. In Beijing, the high smog level triggered an orange-level pollution alert over the weekend, with residents advised to stay indoors and some factories ordered shut.PHOTO: XINHUA

BEIJING • Northern China choked under some of the worst smog this year yesterday, with levels in Beijing soaring to 22 times the healthy limits, triggering the city's second-highest pollution alert as world leaders convened in Paris for global climate change talks.

Heavy smog blanketed the cities after President Xi Jinping arrived in Paris for the key discussions that will largely focus on China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Concentration of PM2.5, tiny airborne particles which embed deeply in the lungs, reached over 560 micrograms per cubic m in the capital, according to the United States Embassy - well over the recommended maximum of 25 micrograms.

Levels in several cities in neighbouring Hebei province were also well above 500 micrograms, official figures showed, more than 20 times the World Health Organisation's advised limit.

Beijing issued an orange-level pollution alert over the weekend, the highest of the year, with residents advised to stay indoors and some industrial plants ordered shut.

POOR VISIBILITY

You can't even see people standing directly in front of you.

A NETIZEN on Sina Weibo wrote of the smog

"You can't even see people standing directly in front of you," wrote one netizen on Chinese Twitter- equivalent Sina Weibo. "It feels like even the subway station is full of haze."

Mr Xi was in Paris for the first day of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) summit, which aims to strike a global deal limiting dangerous climate change.

The Asian giant is estimated to have released between nine billion and 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013, nearly twice as much as the US and around 21/2 times as much as the European Union.

It pledged last year to peak carbon dioxide output by "around 2030" - suggesting at least another decade of growing emissions.

Most of the country's carbon emissions come from coal burning in power factories and homes - which spikes in winter along with demand for heating, which also causes smog. The pollution has been linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, becoming a major source of popular discontent with the government.

Beijing's severe pollution is expected to last until a cold front arrives today, the city's environmental protection bureau said on its website.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2015, with the headline 'Smog in N. China climbs to dangerous levels'. Print Edition | Subscribe