BEIJING — Chinese officials announced Thursday that they were offering a total of $1.65 billion this year to cities and regions that make “significant progress” in air pollution control, according to a report by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.
The announcement came from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, after it held a meeting Wednesday to discuss, among other issues, the country’s immense air pollution problem. “Control of PM2.5 and PM10 should be a key task,” the State Council said in a statement, referring to two kinds of particulate matter that are deemed harmful to human health.
The meeting was presided over by Li Keqiang, a member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee and China’s prime minister.
The announcement of the financial incentives revealed how difficult it has been for some leaders in Beijing to get many Chinese companies and government officials to comply with environmental regulations. Though central officials have been saying with growing vigor that pollution of all kinds must be curbed, their efforts to force other parts of the bureaucracy and the state-run economy to obey rules have been stymied by the self-interest of some groups.
For example, the state-owned oil companies exert enormous influence on environmental policy, including the setting of fuel standards, and sometimes outright ignore orders from officials to upgrade their products.
On Thursday, Chinese news organizations reported that the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences had deemed Beijing to be “almost unfavorable for human living.”
Last year, more than 100 cities in China had an average of 29.9 smoggy days, which was a 52-year high, China Daily reported, though it did not explain what constituted a smoggy day.
The State Council announcement said nationwide coal consumption must be controlled, more vehicles should run on high-quality gasoline, energy use in the construction industry should be lowered, and cleaner boilers should be used.
The majority of China’s energy use is based on coal, whose burning, besides being the major cause of air pollution in the country, also contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming. China has surpassed the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the biggest coal consumer in the world.