China has promised major steps to improve air quality as smog and greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, reports today’s Asia Times. “On June 14, the State Council released a package of 10 anti-pollution measures to ease the emissions crisis, state media said. Topping the list is a pledge to cut pollution from six smog-producing industries by at least 30% per unit of output by 2017, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
“The government has already targeted producers of thermal power, iron and steel, petrochemicals, cement, non-ferrous metals and chemicals with rules to make them gradually comply with international standards in 47 cities.
“The 2017 target is seen as speeding up the process in the six dirtiest industries that account for over 70% of emissions, according to Chai Fahe, vice president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, cited by the official China Daily. Despite a series of efforts, the government has made only limited progress in cleaning up the big six emitters. The same group was cited as the source for 70% of power consumption and sulfur dioxide releases as far back as 2007. But there are signs that the new government is serious about making faster progress on environmental issues after rising public anger over urban smog. “It has proven that environmental crises can stir controversy and greatly undermine social stability,” Xinhua said in a separate commentary. On June 14, state media gave prominent coverage to an air pollution fine imposed on a Sinopec refinery in eastern Anhui province. Although the fine was only 90,000 yuan (US$14,670), according to the 21st Century Business Herald, a report in China Daily said it was unusual that the company was cited at all.
“Experts said the penalty … marks a victory for local law enforcers in their battle with mammoth state-owned companies, which can have administrative rankings even higher than those of regional governments,” the paper reported. On June 19, the Supreme People’s Court and People’s Procuratorate issued a joint legal interpretation, promising tougher penalties for environmental crimes. Enforcement “has long been lax and superficial in China”, Xinhua said. The tactic of “naming and shaming” polluters also seems to be part of the central government’s strategy, which calls for “heavily polluting companies to publicize environmental data” as one of the 10 steps.”