The municipal legislature of Beijing on Wednesday passed a regulation on air pollution control featuring emission controls and harsher penalties to battle severe smog.
The Beijing Municipal People's Congress voted in favor of the regulation, the first of its kind for the Chinese capital, replacing a guideline issued in 2000. The new regulation will take effect from March 1.
The regulation says Beijing will limit and gradually reduce the total discharge of major air pollutants by setting yearly quotas for district and county governments and individual polluters. It will also cut coal burning and limit car emissions, in an effort to reduce PM2.5 density by 25 percent by 2017 from that of 2012.
It is the first time that Beijing has set a cap on its total emissions of major pollutants, said Fang Li, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. The previous guideline targeted only the density of emissions.
"It's very necessary to change the pattern from controlling only density to the total amount of pollutants' emission as the PM2.5 density has broken through the limit of environmental capacity," said Zhang Yuanxun, a professor of resources and environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
He noted that the new policy stress is a big step forward on the stringency of combating air pollution, as the emissions from individual motor vehicles or industrial companies can meet the standard, but if their total amount is not controlled, the issue of air pollution still cannot be tackled.
"Controlling the total amount can lead to subsequent complementary policies, such as giving priority to developing public transportation and vehicles fueled by green energy, and result in the shrinking of industrial capacity," Zhang noted.
The regulation also imposes heavier fines on polluters violating the regulation, which also stresses criminal punishments for those whose acts constitute crimes.
For those who are penalized more than twice for violating the regulation, the fine would be doubled, while there is no limit for the amount of the fines.
"If the misconduct constitutes a crime, it must be penalized by the Criminal Law and the fines, even though without limit, cannot suffice," said Li Xiaojuan, director of the legislative affairs office under the Standing Committee of Beijing Municipal People's Congress.
Frequent smog has been a major source of public complaint in the heavily populated capital.
The metropolis experienced 58 days of serious pollution last year, and the average PM2.5 index, which measures hazardous fine particles, more than double the new national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.