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MEP holds a symposium to address heavy air pollution in several provinces

Li Ganjie stresses the importance to prioritize the response to heavy air pollution, make full-throttled efforts to tackle air pollution in the autumn and winter, and work towards the attainment of the objectives set out by the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Air Pollution.

MEP held a symposium in Beijing on Thursday to address the heavy air pollution in several provinces. Minister Li Ganjie presided and spoke at the meeting. He stressed that it is imperative to prioritize the response to heavy air pollution, make full-throttled efforts to tackle air pollution in the autumn and winter, and work towards the attainment of the objectives set out by the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Air Pollution.

At the beginning, the meeting was briefed on the air quality situations of Northeast China, Chengdu Plain, and Guanzhong Area of Shaanxi Province in the autumns and winters between 2013 and 2016. Then the officials in charge of air quality with the people’s governments of Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Sichuan, and Shaanxi shared what they have prepared to combat the air pollution in this autumn and winter.

In response, Li said that the local areas have put in place supplementary policies based on the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council and made progress over the past four years. The local governments have rolled out implementation plans on fighting air pollution, broken down and allocated the control targets in the action plan, and identified the air quality improvement as one of the key indicators to measure the local economic and social development and the performances of leading officials. They have implemented the pollution control measures in full scale, and actively promoted the industrial and energy restructuring, elimination of small coal-fired boilers, phase-out of yellow-tagged vehicles and obsolete vehicles, as well as the upgrading of coal-fired electricity generating units for them to have ultra-low emissions. Moreover, they have established area-wide control mechanism based on the characteristics of air pollution and the laws of pollution transmission, in order for the major cities to collaborate and fight air pollution.

However, we should be keenly aware of the prominent problems we’ve met in controlling air pollution, noted Li. To be specific, the air quality had alternated between good and bad. The improvement was much slower this year, and in some areas the pollution was even worse, which makes it a great challenge to achieve the annual objectives. Furthermore, some district and county governments were reluctant to expose and deal with chronic environmental violations, because they were not pushed hard enough to do so. Also, the control measures for the autumn and winter were not highly relevant. The air quality was not improved much, and heavy air pollution struck very frequently, which seriously disrupted the people’s work and life, and offset the improvements in other periods of the year. Finally, there were weak points in tackling heavy air pollution. For example, the emergency preparedness plans were neither strict nor feasible, the reduction measures were weak, the early warnings were not activated in a timely fashion, and the emergency response measures were not actually implemented.

Li emphasized that this autumn and winter marks the final sprint of the last year at first-stage implementation the action plan on air pollution control. The local areas should make greater efforts and strive to achieve the objectives of the first-stage and lay groundwork for greater control during the ongoing five-year plan period and beyond. To this end, first, we should raise awareness that to properly address heavy air pollution and effectively improve ambient air quality is a matter concerning the people’s health, the balanced socioeconomic development, and the social harmony and stability. We should act in line with the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council and control the air pollution effectively in this autumn and winter. Second, we should pay close attention to the seasonal priority tasks, ban the stalk burning in the open and control the soot from heat supply boilers. We will devote more resources to the tour inspection on stalk burning and punish the open fires. We will make a reasonable plan for the northeast China at the advent of the heat supply season so that they will commence the heat supply on different dates and reasonably regulate the heat supply so as to prevent the commencement of heat supply at a narrow window to cause air pollution. Third, we will map out science-based, effective, and measurable emergency preparedness plans to tackle heavy air pollution, and make a list of reduction measures and projects. We will improve inter-province heavy air pollution estimation and forecast mechanism, and conduct relevant capacity building. Fourth, we will strengthen the environmental compliance inspection and regulation. The local areas should launch thematic inspection to check the air pollution control in the autumn and winter. The Ministry will gather regional enforcement forces to conduct cross-inspection in the northeast China, Guanzhong Area of Shaanxi, and Chengdu-Chongqing area. Furthermore, we will regularly make public the list of non-attainment enterprises and seriously investigate and punish the emission of air pollutants either beyond the emission standard or by evading regulatory authorities. We will give “zero tolerance” to the data frauds and either have talks with the top officials or suspend the environmental review of new projects in badly polluted cities. Fifth, the local people’s governments should earnestly take responsibilities for improving the local air quality, check the tasks against the list, and make sure all tasks are completed on schedule. A special plan will be devised to control the air pollution in the autumn and winter, and accountability mechanism will be put in place to hold the liable organizations or persons accountable.

The heads of the people’s governments and environmental protection departments of Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, and the directors general of relevant internal departments and affiliated institutions of the Ministry attended the meeting.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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