Beijing outlines plans to improve air quality more in 2020, use more new energy vehicles

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing will cut smog levels further this year by putting more new energy vehicles (NEV) on its roads, reducing diesel-fuelled truck numbers and tightening its supervision of vehicle emissions and refined oil products, the city said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: People are seen in a traditional alleyway, or Hutong, on a polluted day in central Beijing, China March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The Beijing Municipality government also said it will aim to cut emissions in the petrochemical industry.

The Chinese capital recorded an average concentration of tiny airborne smog particles known as PM2.5 at 42 micrograms per cubic metre last year, the lowest level since the country began an anti-air pollution campaign in 2016.

Nevertheless, that PM2.5 level is still more than four times the World Health Organization’s guideline of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

“Beijing will make its best effort to improve air quality, with annual PM2.5 concentration and three-year average concentrations continuing to fall,” the Beijing Municipality government said in a statement on Thursday.

The city said it aims to have 400,000 NEVs - plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells - by the end of the year, up from the 225,000 on its roads at the end of 2018.

It aims to speed up the elimination of high-emission cars and replace diesel-fuelled trucks with NEVs, which it will use for all its postal, intra-city delivery, environmental sanitation departments and for its airport and public bus systems.

Meanwhile, Beijing said it will strengthen its supervision of in-use vehicles by carrying out checks on at least 1.5 million heavy-duty diesel vehicles.

It will set stricter standards on gasoline and diesel, with lower olefin, aromatics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contents.

Emission levels at petrochemical firms will have to be cut by more than 30% in 2020 from the 2017 level, while industrial coating and furniture companies will undergo emission assessments by local authorities, according to the statement.

The city has seen PM2.5 concentrations of over 120 micrograms per cubic metre for five consecutive days since Sunday, despite the production and transportation disruptions due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Pollutant emissions from heavy industry and residential heating, which account for two-thirds of the total in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, did not decline during the national holiday,” said the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) in a statement on Thursday.

While emissions from coal-fired power plants and steel mills fell by around 10% from their pre-holiday levels, there was little change in pollution level from the coke, petrochemical, glass and non-ferrous metals industries, the MEE said.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway, Additional reporting by Yilei Sun; Editing by Hugh Lawson