Beijing pollution levels fall slightly in 2014

Beijing pollution levels fall slightly in 2014
A security personnel walks near Tiananmen Gate on a heavily hazy day in Beijing October 24, 2014. Beijing recorded a slight drop in smog levels in 2014, the municipal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Sunday.

BEIJING - Beijing recorded a slight drop in smog levels in 2014, the municipal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Sunday, though some pollutants remained at 150 per cent above national minimum levels.

The city government has restricted coal use, shut down factories and introduced new fuel standards for cars and trucks in a bid to limit a surge in air pollution that at times has left the Chinese capital shrouded in smog.

Data released Sunday showed the city is making slow progress in combating pollution, which reports say ends hundreds of thousands of lives in China prematurely every year.

Average concentration of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, known as PM2.5, fell 4 per cent from 2013 to 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter, the EPA said. The national standard is 35, although the government does not expect to meet the standard until around 2030.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) levels fell 17.7 per cent, nitrogen dioxide (NOx) 1.3 per cent and PM10 7.1 per cent, the EPA said, while dust levels rose.

As a result, Beijing's 20 million denizens enjoyed 93 days with "excellent air quality" in 2014, up from 71 days in 2013, the EPA said.

The city plans to cut PM2.5 levels a further 5 per cent this year, and reduce SO2 and NOx emissions by 6 per cent.

It aims to get coal consumption levels down to 15 million tonnes this year from 19 million in 2014. It will get 200,000 old, highly polluting vehicles off the road and shut down some 300 factories, the EPA said.

By 2017, Beijing hopes to get PM2.5 levels down to 60, after cutting coal consumption to less than 10 million tonnes annually. In August, the municipal government said it would phase out coal use completely by 2020.

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