Toxic smog is a huge problem in China

China's five-year plan for huge reduction in power emissions

China has said it will reduce emissions of major pollutants from the power sector by 60 per cent in the next five years. 

The country’s official People’s Daily website said that China will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by 180 million tonnes by 2020. The website did not provide any details on how the reductions will be achieved.

Few details are known about the plan and some commentators suggest it will mostly target air pollutants rather than greenhouse gas emissions, as China’s coal consumption is still rising and is expected to peak around 2020.

Extreme pollution in China’s capital Beijing this week forced the authorities to issue an orange alert, the second-highest level for dangerous air quality. Highways were closed, construction suspended and residents advised to stay indoors.

According to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, the smog was caused by "unfavourable" weather, but air pollution is a serious problem in the region every winter due to urban heating systems and low wind speeds.

The hazardous air, which cleared on Wednesday, underscores the challenge facing the government as it battles pollution caused by the coal-burning power industry and raises questions about its ability to clean up its economy.

Reducing coal use and promoting cleaner forms of energy are set to play a crucial role in China's pledges to bring its climate warming greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by around 2030.

However, China is still pressing the stance that developed countries, which have grown rich using fossil fuels in the past, should shoulder more responsibility for the current situation to allow developing nations time to catch up.

China's delegate at the Paris talks, Su Wei, commented on the perceived lack of commitment by rich countries to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and help developing nations with new finance to tackle global warming.

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