China has announced it will no longer be pursuing blanket cuts on heavy industry production, saying that its final anti-pollution plan will allow local authorities to set limitations according to the area’s specific emission levels.
The announcement was made on Thursday by the country’s Ministry of Environment and Ecology (MEE) and comes as the government attempts to perfect its ‘war on pollution’ strategy, which thus far includes easing up on anti-smog schemes.
Prior to the amendment, the anti-pollution scheme was to see production cuts of 30% to 50% on all heavy industries such as steelmaking, cement factories, coke plants and chemical production in 28 northern cities. Individual companies in different industries could also be subject to cuts, depending on their emissions record.
In the finalised plan, MEE said: “Local authorities should carry out production cuts based on their individual situation and refrain from adopting blanket cuts.”
The ministry also said local government bodies would be able to shorten or extend production restrictions in response to areas’ monthly air quality. The regional authorities have until the end of October to submit their production restriction proposals, after which no changes will be allowed.
Some facilities will be exempted from the restrictions, such as steelmakers that use scrap steel and other companies capable of meeting low emission standards.
The ministry is attempting to bring the average concentration of PM2.5 – tiny airborne particles that are hazardous to human health – down by around 3%, as compared with levels recorded over the same period last year; a less ambitious target than the original 5% proposed. In addition, under the new plan, the number of days where severe air pollution should be reduced has been changed to 3%, down from the original 5% stipulated in last month’s draft.
As part of these attempts, the MEE is also planning to replace coal-fired systems with gas or electric in 3.62 million homes in the same 28 northern cities.
The MME said that last winter the northern region saw a 25% drop in PM2.5 and a 55% cut in the number of days of heavy pollution, which the ministry attributes to enforced shutdowns of steel mills, construction sites, coking plants and chemical factories.
The revised cuts ease pressure on China’s production facilities, as the country has struggled against US sanctions and slowed economic growth.
According to the South China Morning Post, Nomura International economist Lu Ting said in a research note that the anti-smog campaign would take a softer line than last year, “given the headwinds from weakening demand and more challenges from rising trade protectionism and the escalation in China-US trade tension,
“Beijing has shifted to an outright stimulus stance in recent months, which also implies less aggressive in implementing the anti-smog campaign.”