Reuters reports that China’s cabinet approved 10 new anti-pollution laws on Friday, promising to reduce emissions per unit of GDP in key industries by at least 30 percent by the end of 2017. Companies will be required to improve their pollution control equipment and will face penalties for excess emissions, according to BBC News, though the announcement did not specify which industries would fall under the scope of the new rules. Clifford Coonan at The Independent notes that local governments will be largely responsible for enforcement.
The new measures “demonstrate not only resolve but also action to cope with environmental issues,” according to the China Daily:
As the State Council statement said on Friday, reducing air pollution is about people’s welfare and the country’s economic future.
On one hand, smog is visible and affects the life of everyone, rich and poor. It has proven that environmental crises can stir controversy and greatly undermine social stability.
On the other hand, it is closely related to transforming the economic growth pattern and promoting urbanization, the two most important issues in government work. [Source]
Air pollution in Beijing reached record levels in January as the capital city battled a winter “airpocalypse” that one Chinese public health expert called worse than SARS. The levels of two key air pollutants in Beijing rose by nearly 30% in the first three months of the year, and Larson also points out that China just suffered its smoggiest March in 52 years. Several recent studies have linked pollution to birth defects and premature deaths in China, and the country’s new leaders have declared “ecological progress” a priority even though bureaucratic infighting has threatened to complicate any potential solutions.
The new rules are encouraging, according to one environmentalist who spoke to CBC News, though he questioned how effectively local governments could enforce them:
Environmental campaigner Ma Jun said the measures show the central government is continuing to pay great attention to air pollution, “one of the major concerns of the public.”
However, local governments pose a potential obstacle because they understand that their performance is judged by growth, said Ma, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. “When it comes to the approval of new projects, the local governments often still pursue the highly energy- and pollution-intensive projects which can often generate higher GDP growth rate in the short term,” he said.
One measure says heavily polluting industries and companies will be required to publicize information about how their operations affect the environment. When such information is disclosed to the public, it will be harder for local governments to interfere, Ma said.
“This will be subject to public supervision. This is new and I think this is very important,” he said. [Source]