The Ministry of Ecology and Environment released an action plan on Sept 27 that aims to add more days of clear skies this autumn and winter.
The plan will be implemented in 28 cities, including Beijing, Tianjin and cities in Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong and Henan provinces.
Air quality has improved in the region for the first eight months of the year, but pollution is expected to worsen this winter since weather conditions might not be as favorable for dispersing the pollutants as last year, according to a circular published on the ministry’s website.
Under the plan, the number of days with heavy pollution is expected to be cut by about 3 percent in the next six months from the same period last year. The average concentration of PM2.5 in the region will also be cut by 3 percent.
According to the ministry, the 28 cities accounted for a total of 453 days of heavy pollution between October 2017 and March this year, falling by 55 percent year-on-year. The average concentration of PM2.5 particulate matter also saw a 25 percent decline.
The ministry will continue to promote coal-to-gas and coal-to-electricity projects, and increase the capacity of transportation by rail, water and pipeline in an effort to cut PM2.5 emissions, the plan said.
It also called for tailored measures to carry out residential energy conversion projects. Local authorities should guarantee the supply of liquefied natural gas and electricity for households that were converted last year, and decide on new projects according to the supply of LNG and electricity, the plan said. Original facilities will not be removed until the clean energy supply is guaranteed, it said.
The ministry will also step up emission controls of volatile organic compounds, which play a significant role in the formation of ozone in the atmosphere, it said.
The plan requires that city authorities should hammer out emergency measures by the end of September for days of heavy pollution. By the end of this year provincial meteorological services in each of the 28 cities should be able to provide a seven-day forecast for air quality.
The move aims to enable cities to respond collectively to emergency situations, it said.
To cut concentrations of PM2.5, the 28 cities were required to use electricity or LNG for heating last winter instead of coal, which is the main cause of winter smog.
However, as the heating season began, some people in those areas found their homes and schools freezing, mainly due to LNG shortages.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, said that this year’s pollution reduction goals were considerably lower than those of last year, which is partly due to the outlook of this winter’s weather conditions.
Ma said the new plan shows that the central authorities are trying to avoid the “one-fits-all” approach, including the hasty gas-for-coal conversion projects and the shutdown of enterprises, which have caused public outcries.
“This year’s approach is much more gentle and targeted,” he said.