Beijing to clamp down on polluting trucks, coal burning and have more parks for a greener city

Beijing has made progress in tackling air pollution, considering that barely a decade ago flights had to be grounded because of the problem.
Beijing has made progress in tackling air pollution, considering that barely a decade ago flights had to be grounded because of the problem. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Beijing is ramping up efforts to make the city greener by taking diesel trucks off the roads, building more parks and clamping down harder on coal burning.

Mayor Chen Jining outlined these measures for a "beautiful Beijing" on Monday (Jan 14) when he presented city government's work report for this year at the annual Beijing Municipal People's Congress.

He also set lower energy and water consumption, and CO2 emissions targets for 2019, touting them as part of the effort to "improve the ecology and environment".

The environment was a key part of Mr Chen's 90-minute speech to over 700 delegates at the Beijing Conference Centre. Before he was appointed as the city's mayor in 2017, Mr Chen was China's environment minister.

On Monday (Jan 14), he told the gathering, including officials from the city's various districts, foreign embassy representatives and the press, that the municipal government "resolved to win the battles against air, water and soil pollution" and build a "world-class metropolis that is harmonious and liveable".

Mr Chen's remarks came two days after the nation's weather bureau issued orange smog alerts - the second-highest level - across seven regions in the northeast which included Beijing.

This year, management and control of diesel trucks will be something the municipal government would "prioritise", the mayor said, noting that the Beijing government had already taken 47,000 heavy-polluting diesel trucks off the road.

"We will encourage the phasing out of high-emission obsolete or worn-out diesel trucks and support the development of new energy trucks," he said.

 
 
 

Heavy polluting diesel trucks have targetted nation-wide as China seeks to clean up its air. Mr Chen also said Beijing would curb coal burning, assembling enforcement teams at the municipal and district level to do so.

The city would also add an additional 16,667 hectares of parks and green spaces to the city, Mr Chen's work report showed.

The Chinese capital has made progress in tackling air pollution, considering that barely a decade ago flights had to be grounded because of the problem.

Last year, the level of PM2.5 particulates - pollutants small enough to enter the bloodstream - dropped to 51 μg/m3, down from 58 μg/m3 the year before, said Mr Chen.

Mr Ma Jun, director of the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-profit environment research organisation, acknowledged that the government has made progress but added that there needed to be a more coordinated approach to tackling pollution in the Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region.

"The situation now is actually quite good, but once there are unfavourable weather conditions in the region, heavy smog from the region will quickly concentrate in Beijing," said Mr Ma.

In his speech, Mr Chen said that the city's GDP rose by 6.6 per cent last year although he forecast that this would dip to 6 to 6.5 per cent this year.

There was a need for the capital to support private enterprises, attract international talent and encourage innovation, said Mr Chen.

It must cultivate scientists and entrepreneurs in "strategically important fields", he added, without providing specifics.