BEIJING (Reuters) – China will adopt more efficient and targeted measures during its campaign against pollution next year, but will not relax the targets or ease the crackdown on violators, the environment ministry said in a statement.
The push for new measures follows an annual meeting of top leaders last week which noted that the world’s second-largest economy is facing downward pressures.
“We will coordinate environmental protection with economic development and avoid simple and brutal forces to deal with violations,” the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) said in the statement.
The ministry urged local environmental bureaus to help companies set pollution treatment solution plans and to pay attention to reasonable appeals of companies during environmental inspections.
Beijing has ditched blanket production cuts on heavy industry as part of its anti-pollution campaign and allowed local authorities to adopt measures based on regional emission levels. However, declining air quality in the past two months in northern China has stirred concerns that the government is easing up on violations.
In China’s capital, the average concentration of lung-damaging particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) jumped 61 percent in November compared with the same month last year, the environment ministry reported.
In a group of smog-prone 26 northern cities, PM2.5 readings rose 33 percent last month compared with November 2017 to 88 micrograms per cubic meter – more than double the state standard of 35 micrograms.
For the first 11 months of the year, air quality in coal mining heartland Linfen was the worst among the 169 closely monitored cities nationwide, according to the MEE. Top steelmaking hubs Tangshan and Handan were ranked fourth- and fifth-worst respectively.
“China’s environmental protection campaign is facing multiple pressures…Some regions have weakened their cognition of the significance of the environment amid economic downstream pressure and we have seen imbalanced work progress in different places,” said the MEE.
The MEE has scheduled a second round of national environmental inspections in 2019, and vowed to win the war against air pollution and promote water and soil protection.
In a separate statement, the MEE said it has issued 166,210 notices of penalty decisions to environmental regulation violators, with fines totaling 13.6 billion yuan (US$1.98 billion) in the first 11 months this year.