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Environmental scandals have hit China hard this year. This summer, thousands of dead animals were found floating through major waterways, and air pollution hit record levels, blanketing north China in thick acrid smog. Finally forced by public outcry to clamp down on these environmental disasters, China announced its plans yesterday to publish a monthly list of the country’s top 10 worst polluted cities.
Smog is a notorious challenge for China. These latest environmental protection plans were largely spurred by potential unrest in the country’s increasingly affluent populace, which has openly criticized the government for failing to crack down on environmental transgressions. Officials hope that the list, which will serve both an informative and public shaming purpose, will incentivize cities to tighten pollution standards and push for more environmentally friendly economic growth.
Dirty coal, China’s primary energy source, is the main cause behind the country’s thick smog. While it is likely to remain a primary source of energy, the government unveiled plans this week to curtail the country’s reliance on coal by investing in non-fossil fuel energy as well. The government also plans to ban development of new coal-fired power plants around major financial centers such as Beijing and Shanghai.
In the official government statement, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli urges local governments to take greater responsibility for their polluted cities. In addition to the monthly list of the worst cities for air pollution, the central government will also list the top 10 cities with the best air quality. The launch date of the monthly publications has not yet been set.
Second images via Wikimedia