August 8, 2018 / 8:41 AM / in 2 months

China's coal hub Shanxi plans voluntary winter smog curbs to 2020

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s major coal mining hub, Shanxi province, plans to curb industrial manufacturing output voluntarily during the next three winters as part of its 2018-2020 anti-pollution crackdown.

FILE PHOTO: A car drives on a village road in smog on a polluted day in Qingxu, China's Shanxi province, December 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The move is the latest by local authorities in China seeking to step up action to protect the environment by reducing pollution, a key policy goal mandated by the government of the world’s second-biggest economy.

“Each level of officials must make anti-pollution tasks a significant stance in their work...Those who neglect their duties, forge monitoring data or fail the targets will be punished,” the provincial government of Shanxi said in a recent statement.

Last week, China unveiled draft guidance on pollution reduction during winter, asking 28 northern Chinese cities - including four in Shanxi - to enact a series of measures that include shutting some output capacity in high-emission sectors.

“Each city (in Shanxi province) should set up plans on production restrictions in steel, construction materials, non-ferrous and chemicals by the end of September each year,” the provincial government said.

Shanxi aims to lower sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 20 percent by 2020 from levels in 2015, going beyond the national requirement of 15 percent cuts. It’s also seeking to match national targets on reducing hazardous particles, known as PM2.5, in its 11 cities.

The province also said will strictly ban the addition of new factories in the steel, coke, metal casting, cement and glass sectors in eight cities which have been identified by Beijing as a “key battlefield” of the nationwide war on pollution - Taiyuan, Yangquan, Changzhi, Jincheng, Jinzhong, Linfen, Yuncheng and Luliang.

On Monday, Linfen city officials were sharply criticized by the environmental ministry for deliberately disturbing air pollution monitoring stations nearly 100 times in the past year, hiring people to spray water on monitoring equipment to lower the readings.

Shanxi, which accounted for a fifth of the country’s total coke output last year, also plans to impose “special emissions restrictions” in the coke industry, ordering 40 percent of coke plants to complete emission control upgrades by Oct. 1 this year. The remaining plants must implement upgrades by Oct. 1, 2019.

It also aims to cut coal consumption and boost clean energy use during winter heating by adding natural gas supplies and eliminating small coal-fired power plants.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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