January 16, 2014 / 10:40 AM / 6 years ago

China's big polluters exceed emission limits - report

BEIJING (Reuters) - Online emissons figures reported by most coal-fired power plants and factories in China surpassed government limits, a group of NGOs and research institutes said, warning that the situation is likely to worsen in July, when targets get tougher.

High pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger in China, and officials concerned about social unrest have responded by implementing tougher policies.

Coal plants, iron and steel producers, and petrochemicals were the main culprits behind China’s sky-high pollution levels last year, the group, led by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), said in its report.

The group monitored real-time online pollution readings from 179 cities across China and said pollution exceeded government-imposed maximum levels most of the time.

“Most of the heavy-polluting industries monitored can’t meet China’s current pollution standards,” said Song Goujun, director at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Renmin University and one of the authors of the report.

“In most of the cases we observed, the achievement ratio was only 30 to 45 percent,” he told Reuters.

China has drawn up dozens of laws and guidelines to improve the environment but has struggled to enforce them in the face of powerful enterprises.

Last week local media reported that PetroChina, one of China’s biggest state-owned companies, owed 800 million yuan ($132 million) in unpaid environmental fines to the city of Yanan in Shaanxi province.

In July this year the central government will impose stricter emission rules on coal-fired power plants, which will make standards even harder to meet.

For example, the northern cluster of Beijing, Hebei, Shandong and Tianjin must reduce its coal consumption by 83 million tonnes (1.1023 ton) by 2017.

A man rides his tricycle past the cooling tower and chimneys from a coal-burning power station in Beijing June 1, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray

Information disclosure could help identify the biggest sinners and China should “publicly expose them (in order) to strengthen legal enforcement and increase the cost of violations,” said IPE’s Ma Jun, the report’s lead author.

Amid demands for greater transparency the government has ordered several key regions to release emissions data online, but some regions, such as Guangdong, Hunan and Tianjin, have not complied.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection is spending $6.6 billion over the period from 2011 to 2015 to boost its real-time pollution monitoring capacity.

Reporting by Kathy Chen and Stian Reklev; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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