The Chinese government announced on Monday that the country was in grave danger of failing to meet its emissions reduction targets for 2015. In response, the State Council issued a plan featuring a raft of stricter measures, including the removal from city streets of at least five million cars that do not meet emissions standards.

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The pollution in China’s major cities is infamous, and the State Council has set targets for reducing airborne particles in city smog by 10 percent between 2013 and 2017. A mid-term review of the targets has revealed that many key indicators are lagging behind, and a game of catch-up is necessary. Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center of Climate Change Strategy Research stated, “If the nation fails to realize its energy saving and emissions reduction targets for 2015, it would be even harder for it to hit the 2017 target for improving air quality and cutting emissions.”

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China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has stated that 7.8 percent of the country’s cars are substandard on emissions control: exhaust fumes are estimated to cause over 31 percent of Beijing’s air pollution, for example. The revised plan notes, “Strengthening control on vehicle emissions will be a major agenda item for the country’s energy savings, emissions reductions, and low-carbon development during the next two years.” Air pollution is worse in the northern parts of the country and 20 percent of vehicles to be targeted will come from those regions. An estimated 330,000 cars will also be removed from Beijing streets, and another 160,000 will come from Shanghai.

The removal of old rust buckets is only one element of the plan, with other stringent measures being imposed on energy consumption and environmental impact assessments for new developments. China intends to cut its carbon intensity (that is, its carbon emissions per unit of GDP) by four percent in this year and a further 3.5 percent next year. Showing that China is being tougher than some of its Western counterparts, Mr. Li went on to state, “The target remains too lax; some provinces could contribute more. However, some local officials still hold the old way of thinking that economic development remains top priority, and they haven’t paid enough attention to environmental issues.”

Via The Guardian and

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