China's Hebei to crack down on smog after spike this year

SHANGHAI • Heavily polluted Hebei province in northern China will take more action to shut "backward" coal-fired power plants, promote new energy vehicles and relocate more industries, it said yesterday after a surge in smog levels in January and February.

Hebei, home to six of China's 10 smoggiest cities in the first two months of this year, is on the front line of a three-year "war on pollution", and has already promised to slash coal consumption and close inefficient industrial plants.

But the province has been accused of pursuing "form over substance" when it comes to fighting pollution.

Despite improvements, Hebei, together with neighbouring Beijing and Tianjin, saw concentrations of small breathable particles known as PM2.5 rise 48 per cent in the first two months of this year, after several bouts of persistent smog.

At a meeting of government officials last Friday, Hebei Communist Party chief Zhao Kezhi said the province had now drawn up 18 new "special implementation plans". But he also called for "patience", saying there was still a long way to go before Hebei's problems could be resolved.

Hebei, which will host events for the 2022 Winter Olympics, has lagged the rest of the country when it comes to replacing coal, with the share of renewables in its total energy mix less than half the national level last year.

Hebei aims to cut PM2.5 by 10 per cent this year and by 15 per cent in the winter. In one of its new plans, Hebei promised to shut or relocate all "backward" power generation capacity in urban areas by 2020. It has also promised to replace coal-fired furnaces in 1.8 million households with gas or electric heaters.

The official Xinhua news agency said yesterday that a total of 28 northern cities have now drawn up detailed action plans to address winter smog, promising to shut small polluting enterprises, establish "coal-free zones" and halve coal and steel production in winter.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection will publish a monthly progress report aiming to "name and shame" cities that fall behind, Xinhua added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'China's Hebei to crack down on smog after spike this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe