China Considers Imposing Tough Clean Air Standards Across 80 Cities

China has signalled its intention to impose special emissions limits on some of most polluting and energy intensive sectors in the country.

A spokesperson told reporters in Beijing on Friday that restrictions could be increased to include firms in 80 cities. The current programme is confined to 28 cities.

These restrictions will apply to industries working in the chemical, fossil fuel, steel, and cement sectors, among others, and include up to 25 new emissions standards. In the Beijing region, and across major Chinese cities, air pollution is a major issue with smog frequently engulfing urban areas.

“As China increases curbs on emissions, I believe the measures will be expanded to more regions,” said Tian Weiyong, at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

“But we might start with tighter emission standards in the 80 cities,” he added, according to the Reuters news agency.

The ministry has already had success in curbing emissions, reportedly hitting its 2020 target to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by the end of last year.

Its new three-year action plan to reduce smog will also impact on the country’s coal industry, one of the most polluting. China is the world’s biggest user of coal; according to Greenpeace the country commissioned 692 gigawatts of capacity between 2006 and 2017, twice the amount than the rest of the world combined.

This massive expansion has been driven by the country’s growing economy, but has come at a huge environmental and public health cost. In the past couple of years, the government has sought to restrict the number of new coal-fired plants coming online. While 100 new plants were halted in 2017, a further 700 are under development both inside and outside the country.

At the same time, China has aggressively pursued new renewable energy projects, pouring billions into new wind and solar farms.