Chinese Minister unveils measures to cut pollution

BEIJING - The programme to combat pollution will place greater emphasis on monitoring, gathering and releasing information and tackling PM2.5, the minister leading the fight for cleaner air told a major anti-pollution conference.

Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian said on Thursday that 39 more cities will start monitoring PM2.5 and release the readings to the public by December.

Similar monitoring was initiated by 74 cities in 2012. Readings of PM2.5 - particles whose diameters are smaller than 2.5 micrometers that can enter the lungs and bloodstream - are one of the six indicators that are being publicized. The other five are readings of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, respirable particulate matter (PM10 or smaller), ozone and carbon monoxide.

Zhou was addressing the 2013 environmental protection work conference.

He said emissions of nitrogen oxides in 2012 were reduced by 2.8 per cent compared with 2011 levels, and sulfur dioxide by 4.5 per cent. The new target in 2013 for nitrogen oxide reduction, largely due to vehicle exhaust, has been raised to 2.5 per cent from 2 per cent.

Zhou hoped that all cities will aim to get PM2.5 levels lower than 35 micrograms per cubic meter. About 70 per cent of cities fail to meet the current clean-air standard.

He set a timeline for cities with different levels of pollution to meet standards.

"Cities with major air pollution exceeding the standard by less than 15 per cent should try to get it within the standard by 2015. Those that exceed the standard by between 15 to 30 per cent should try to reach the goal by 2020. And those that are emitting more than 30 per cent beyond the standard should make long-term plans and try to set a deadline of 2030," said Zhou.