Beijing to bolster moves to clean up environment

The construction site of China Zun, planned to be the tallest building in Beijing, is seen amid smog at sunset in Beijing, China on July 9, 2017.
The construction site of China Zun, planned to be the tallest building in Beijing, is seen amid smog at sunset in Beijing, China on July 9, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Emissions that have befouled China's air, water and soil will be cut further as the government steps up its fight against pollution this year.

Delivering the government's work report yesterday, Premier Li Keqiang said the country would target to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 3 per cent and continue to slash levels of major pollutants.

To fight air, water and soil pollution, it will also spend 40.5 billion yuan (S$8.4 billion), an increase of 19 per cent from last year.

These measures come on the back of improving air quality after a national action plan to fight smog led to cleaner skies in cities like Beijing.

To consolidate the gains, Mr Li said sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions would be cut by 3 per cent, and polluting industries and diesel trucks pushed to cut emissions. Cuts of 2 per cent in chemical oxygen demand and ammoniacal nitrogen emissions - a measure for ammonia, a toxic pollutant found in landfills and waste products - would also be pushed through.

Mr Li vowed that the rates of PM2.5 - a key smog indicator - would continue to fall, saying: "We all need to join hands and take action to build a beautiful China where the skies are blue, the land is green, and the waters are clear."

He unveiled a raft of measures to clean up and restore the environment, including planting more than 6.67 million hectares of forest.

China is the world's top polluter, the result of 40 years of breakneck growth that has contaminated its farmland, rivers and air.

Mr Li said that in the past five years, notable progress has been made, with PM2.5 rates falling by more than 30 per cent in key areas.

China is also the world's biggest consumer of coal, but has cut its consumption of the fossil fuel by 8.1 per cent, and increased its clean energy production by 6.3 per cent.

A National People's Congress delegate from Shaanxi province, Mr Zhang Ting, said he was confident the new measures would soon lead to visible improvements. "It is definitely a good thing enforcement in this area is being strengthened."

The environment is a key focus for Beijing. President Xi Jinping has pledged to build a moderately prosperous society by 2020, and controlling pollution is a critical benchmark to achieving this goal.

In a clear signal of the importance of safeguarding the environment, the Constitution is also being amended to expand the role of the State Council, or Cabinet, to include ecological advancement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2018, with the headline 'Beijing to bolster moves to clean up environment'. Subscribe