On December 5, 2012, China's Ministry of Environmental
Protection ("MEP") announced its 12th Five-Year Plan on
Air Pollution Control in Key Regions, which aims to dramatically
cut emissions of pollutants in economically dynamic areas. This is
China's first comprehensive pollution plan and comes at a time
of growing social unrest due to worsening pollution levels.
The government has pledged 350 billion yuan (US$56 billion) to
curb pollution in major cities by 2015.
According to the MEP, China will reduce the intensity of fine
particulate emissions (known as "PM2.5") by at
least five percent in 13 major areas covering 117 cities.
PM2.5 refers to fine particles 2.5 microns or less in
diameter, which are particularly harmful to humans as they can
travel deep into the respiratory tract to the lungs. For the
Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Province, the Yangtze River Delta, and the
Pearl River Delta, areas most severely affected by pollution,
PM2.5 levels will be cut by at least six percent. The
plan also calls for a reduction of larger 10-micron particulate
emissions ("PM10"), sulfur dioxide, and
nitrogen dioxide by 10 percent, 10 percent, and seven percent
The plan focuses on the areas of the country that account for
almost 50 percent of sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, smoke, and dust,
and explores ways to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, a
significant contributor to climate change. A major obstacle to
China's pollution reduction goals is the country's coal
consumption. The MEP is responding to this by planning coal
consumption caps in key regions, so as to phase out the use of
coal-fired boilers and encourage the use of more efficient energy
sources, such as renewable sources and combined heat and power
In addition, the plan contributes to China's broader
commitment under the
12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) to invest in clean energy and
climate change programs. Key targets under the Five-Year Plan
include a 16 percent reduction in "energy intensity"
(energy consumption per unit of GDP), increasing non-fossil energy
to 11.4 percent of total energy use, and a 17 percent reduction in
carbon intensity" (carbon emissions per unit of GDP).
As China's economic development and urbanization continues,
the need for heightened consideration for environmental
repercussions has never been so clear. According to the MEP, high
on the agenda of the 12th Five-Year Plan on Air Pollution Control
in Key Regions is optimization of industrial structures and layout,
as well as the setting of strict limits for projects involving
coal-fired plants, iron and steel production, cement, and
petrochemicals, all of which are heavy polluters. The progress of
the plan will be reviewed every year after 2013, with a final
assessment conducted in 2016. The extent to which the plan will
affect future infrastructure and commercial investments in the
country remains to be seen.
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