Business / Green China

Immediate action to clean worsening air

(Xinhua) Updated: 2013-09-12 21:50

BEIJING -- Amid heavily polluted air in Beijing on Thursday, China issued a plan to tackle the country's worsening air pollution.

The plan is a call for immediate action for both the government and public to clean the air breathed by one-fifth of the earth's population.

It is the country's most detailed and strict plan regarding air pollution treatment, and shows the central authorities' determination to curb air pollution and the government's reflection on years of unsustainable development.

Collective efforts from both the government and public are needed to improve China's air quality within five years in order to decrease the number of heavily polluted days and improve the air in major city clusters, according to the plan, which will cost 1.75 trillion yuan ($284.2 billion).

In addition to announcing detailed measures to cut coal use, shut down polluters and promote cleaner production, the State Council, China's cabinet, called on citizens to turn to public transport and live a green lifestyle.

Air pollution control is an arduous task that took developed countries more than two or three decades to complete.

Severe challenges face China, where about 70 percent of cities fail to meet the national air quality standard, as rapid industrialization and urbanization have led to more cars, emissions and energy consumption.

However, just as Rome was not built in one day, China's aggravating air pollution accumulated through decades of extensive, GDP-obsessed development based on an unbalanced economic structure. Environmental security has long been ignored by local officials.

Dealing with air pollution should start with examining the country's energy structure.

Under the plan, China will promote the transformation and upgrading of industries, and eliminate outdated and excess production capacity in the high-polluting and energy-intensive sectors of iron, steel and cement. Heavier penalties will be imposed for violations.

China aims to cut its total coal consumption to below 65 percent of its total primary energy use by 2017, the year when the total capacity of China's operating nuclear power reactors will reach 50 million kilowatts, and the share of non-fossil fuel energy will reach 13 percent of overall primary energy use.

Although China is one of the world's largest polluters, it is the largest investor in green energy. The country is eyeing a roughly 20-percent cut in energy consumption per unit of industrial value added by 2017, compared to 2012.

Over the years, coal-based energy consumption, especially in north China, has worsened the winter air quality in areas with coal-fired heating, which has caused people to worry about their health. Beijing even started emergency response measures in January to curb the hazardous air pollution after dense, choking smog lingered over the capital for several consecutive days.

Citizens of this planet are both air pollution sources and victims. Each member of the public must act to prevent and control air pollution through action, such as leaving cars at home on International Car-Free Day on September 22.

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