Beijing law sets stiff targets for PM2.5 levels

By Wen Ya Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-20 0:58:02

A measure to reduce PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been included in a new draft law, marking the first time the requirement would be legally binding in any part of China.

Beijing people's congress reviewed the draft pollution and prevention law Saturday during the annual two sessions of the municipal legislative and consultative bodies.

The municipal government signed an agreement with the central government in 2013, promising to improve air quality by 2017. The city will dedicate 760 billion yuan ($125.63 billion) to cope with heavy smog, Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun said at a group meeting of Saturday's conference.  

"If we can't make the target by that time, top leaders joke that heads will roll," Wang said.

The draft features more punishment clauses, accounting for one-third of the total, which will increase financial penalties for violating the law, so people dare not discharge pollutants, said Liu Jigang, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee.

Citizens will also be able to file lawsuits against the polluting company for compensation directly if they are not satisfied with the conciliation of environmental watchdogs.

Authorities will take legal responsibility if they fail to investigate or punish polluters. Violators will receive administrative punishment or even criminal sanctions.

The municipal government should improve the public reporting system for pollution and reward those whose information is proved.

Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau (EPB) has said that the fines will be higher than the cost of the cleanup for polluters.

There will be no upper limit for repeat offenders, Liu said, the Beijing News reported.

"Making lowering PM2.5 a legal target is of great significance," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE), a Beijing-based NGO.  

"The previous regulations and laws usually focus on emission reduction, but this doesn't necessarily mean PM2.5 will be lowered."

Statistics from the EPB show that annual average PM2.5 is 98.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013, 2.56 times the national annual standard of 35 micrograms.

In 2013, every week saw on average one day with severe smog, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Wang declared an "all-out effort" on Thursday to tackle air pollution by cutting coal use by 2.6 million tons and transforming 300 polluting companies this year, Xinhua reported.

Lowering PM2.5 in Beijing cannot be achieved by Beijing alone since Beijing's air quality is influenced by its neighbors, including Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong provinces, said Wu Dui, a professor with China Meteorological Administration. 

"These neighboring cities should also join the fight against pollution," Wu said.

Also included in the draft are restrictions on open-air barbecues and a requirement that drivers must switch off engines while idling in areas such as parks, hospitals and schools.

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