For years China’s focus was solely on economic growth and little attention was given to the consequences this was having on the environment. However, China has finally started to realise the full extent of its polluted, smog-filled skies and has started to tackle this ever-worsening problem. China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, announced in his first annual policy report that China will “declare war on pollution” in an effort to get rid of the current unsustainable economic model which is seriously harming the environment. In his statement he described pollution as being “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development”, and announced plans to remove high-emission cars from China’s roads and to also close coal-fired furnaces. (Branigan, 2014). According to Greenpeace, the emissions from coal-fired power plants in China killed more than a quarter of a million people in 2011 (Duggan, 2013). Last December, a cement plant that produced clouds of pollution over Hebei, China’s most polluted province, was demolished. This was one of 35 closed or torn down factories in Pingshan county, and illustrates the government’s recent efforts to reduce China’s pollution (Watt, 2014). However, this has had various social impacts such as the loss of 3,780 jobs and with many local people being dependent on the cement industry to earn a living, this has caused serious problems for some.
China aims to reduce PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, the small particulates that are the greatest risk to individual’s health, as well as impose a limit on energy consumption. Furthermore, a clean-water action plan will also protect sources of drinking water. Li also set a slower growth target for China (7.5% growth), which is likely to be a result of China’s focus on reducing pollution (Wadhams, 2014). In addition to this, China is also starting to put into practice parafoil planes – drones that come with gliding parachutes –, which are unmanned aerial vehicles able to carry 700 kg of smog-clearing chemicals. Later this month, these will be in place at airports and ports and are expected to help clear polluted air within a five-kilometre radius (Watson, 2014).
For many years China focused exclusively on economic expansion with little thought given to the environmental costs it was having, therefore it is about time China starts directing more attention to the environment. However, with smog already at unbearable levels in some cities, has China left it too late to start effectively tackling its pollution and reverse the environmental problems that have been serious consequences of China’s recent economic success?
Branigan, T. (2014) Chinese premier declares war on pollution in economic overhaul, Available: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/05/china-pollution-economic-reform-growth-target (Accessed 6 March 2014)
Duggan, J. (2013) China’s coal emissions responsible for ‘quarter of a million premature deaths’, Available: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/12/china-coal-emissions-smog-deaths (Accessed 6 March 2014)
Wadhams, N. (2014) Li Says China Will Declare War on Pollution as Smog Spreads, Available: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-05/china-to-declare-war-on-pollution-as-smog-spreads-across-country.html (Accessed 6 March 2014)
Watson, L. (2014) China to use drones to clear its smog-filled skies by spraying the pollution with chemicals which make the particles fall to the ground, Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2574052/China-use-drones-clear-smog-filled-skies-spraying-pollution-chemicals-make-particles-fall-ground.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490 (Accessed 6 March 2014)
Watt, L. (2014) China Takes Aim at Pollution After Years of Growth, Available: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/china-takes-aim-pollution-years-growth-22795443 (Accessed 6 March 2014)