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Air pollution levels in and around Beijing remained dire last year, underlining the scale of effort that will be needed to win the self-declared “war on pollution".

The area surrounding Beijing accounted for the worst air pollution in China, with Hebei home to six cities judged to have the country’s worst air quality.

Given the scale of the problem, few will have expected China to make a big improvement to its air quality in just a year since premier Li Keqiang said that tackling chronic air quality would be a national priority. But the figures show that heavily-industrialised areas surrounding the capital are still churning out harmful particulates on a massive scale despite  the announcement of policies last year aimed at curbing coal use. 

Hebei's reliance on heavy industry, particularly iron and steel, means that targets on cutting pollution and coal use could stoke unemployment and migration to nearby Beijing, and local officials want more economic aid and subsidies to cushion the blow. 

Experts argue China is still underfunding its “war on pollution”. In 2013, China’s environmental spending fell by almost 10% despite premier Li Keqiang’s much-publicised commitment to tackling pollution.

This falls far short of what is needed to address problems of air pollution, much of which stems from the burning of coal for power generation and heating, and fuels used in cars and trucks.

Dealing with pollution was a major theme at the National People's Congress in Beijing in March 2015, when Communist Party officials discussed how measures to clean up China's air, soil and water can be integrated in the 13th five-year-plan.

The MEP data shows that only eight out of 74 big cities managed to meet national standards last year on a series of pollution criteria, including PM2.5 and sulphur dioxide levels.

The gLawcal Team

POREEN project

(Source: China Dialogue)