Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) yesterday said that China would make 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 Chinese 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 that cleared away the gray from the day before.
Protests have increasingly broken out in cities where residents oppose the building of chemical plants and garbage incinerators, as China’s middle class grows increasingly vocal about pollution.
“People are desperately hoping for” faster progress to improve air quality, Li told the almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. “We will make our skies blue again.”
He said that the government intends over the next year to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions and energy conservation, and prioritize the integration of sources of renewable energy into the electricity grid.
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.”
Environmentalists welcome the disclosure of such data because they allow the public to directly supervise the emissions of plants in their areas.
Greenpeace coal campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta said the group had expected the government to announce a speeding up of measures because air pollution is supposed to hit targets this year that were laid down in 2013.
“It will require very dramatic steps to achieve those targets for this year,” Myllyvirta said.
Li also said Beijing would ramp up efforts to deal with vehicle emissions by working to take old vehicles off the roads and encourage the use of “clean energy” cars.
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