China state media has unveiled the the country is planning to spend 1.7 trillion yuan (£175bn) to combat air pollution over the next five years.
The Action Plan for Air Pollution Control (2013–2017) was announced by China’s environment minister Zhou Shengxian at last month’s Ecological Civilisation Forum held in Guiyang.
The measures include plans to close old polluting steel mills, cement factories and aluminium smelters, slash coal consumption and boost the use of nuclear power and natural gas.
Air pollution and thick hazardous smog has engulfed much of the industrial north, including the capital, Beijing. The pollution was particularly bad in January this year when readings for PM2.5 – particles small enough to penetrate the lungs deeply – allegedly hit 993 micrograms per cubic metre, almost 40 times the World Health Organization’s safe limit.
Beijing has set a target to reduce PM2.5 concentration to 60 micrograms per cubic meter by 2017, down 25% from 2012 and still about three times the average concentration recorded in London of about 20. The Environmental Protention Agency has set 12 micrograms per cubic meter as its desired safe level.
Car emissions account for one-third of PM2.5 in most congested areas of Beijing, according to China Daily but other sources include coal-fired power plants, oil refiners and other large industrial factories.
Beijing has said it plans to keep private car ownership, which currently stands at about 5.2 million, under 6 million by the end 2017.