CHINESE PREMIER VOWS TO MAKE THE SKY BLUE AGAIN
Premier Li vows to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions, energy conservation
CHINESE Premier Li Keqiang pledged yesterday to make the country’s smoggy skies blue again and “work faster” to address pollution caused by the burning of coal for heat and electricity.
His words to delegates at the opening of the annual National People’s Congress highlight how public discontent has made reducing smog, the most visible of China’s environment problems, a priority for the leadership. The 10-day event got under way under a sunny blue sky, thanks to heavy gusts from the north.
Li said that “people are desperately hoping for” faster progress to improve air quality. “We will make our skies blue again,” he declared to almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People.
Over the next year, he said the government intended to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions and energy conservation, and prioritise the integration of renewable energy sources into the electricity grid.
Despite China’s lingering dependence on coal plants, its consumption of the energy source fell for a third year in a row last year. Coal now makes up 62 percent of China’s energy consumption mix.
Building on publicly available real-time and hourly readings from coal plants and other factories, Li said: “All key sources of industrial pollution will be placed under round-the-clock online monitoring.”
Environmental groups welcome the disclosure of such data because it allows the public to supervise the emissions of plants.
Lauri Myllyvirta, senior coal campaigner for Greenpeace, said they had expected the government to announce a speeding up of measures because air pollution was supposed to hit targets this year that were laid down in 2013. They include a 25 per cent reduction in the density of fine particulate matter — a gauge of air pollution — in the capital and the surrounding region from 2012 levels.
Li also said the government would ramp up efforts to deal with vehicle emissions by working faster to take old vehicles off the roads and encourage the use of clean-energy cars.
Environmental laws and regu lations would be strictly enforced and officials who failed to do so would be held “fully accountable,” he said, without giving details. Local officials have often been lax at enforcing regulations on companies that contribute to economic growth in their areas.
Li said that this year sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions — gasses produced by burning fossil fuels that can cause respiratory problems — would both be cut by three per cent, and the density of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 would fall “markedly” in key areas. Official data show an improvement in China’s air quality since 2013, when the government brought out its air pollution action plan.
Delegates leaving the Great Hall of the People under sunny blue skies after attending the opening session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday.