China’s environment ministry announced in October a watered-down version of an earlier plan to clean up urban skies during the coming winter months. The government also backed off from similar production cuts on heavy industry imposed last year.
China wants to reduce the volume of the most health-harmful PM2.5 airborne particulates in northern cities by 3 % a year, a more modest goal than the previous planned target of 5 % a year. Companies in heavy industry and construction that meet the emission requirement will also be exempt from production restrictions. Decisions on production restrictions will be delegated from the ministry to the local level.
The government lowered its emission targets on fears of flagging economic growth and last winter’s widespread issues with apartment heating. By some estimates, even the less ambitious emission targets may be hard to achieve. Due to last year’s winter emission limits and favourable weather conditions, the basis for comparison this year is already a much-improved relative to earlier years. People are also worried that the emission targets might be missed when local governments are able to decide on production restrictions.
China’s carbon dioxide emissions are larger than the combined CO2 emissions of the EU and US. The less time it takes for Chinese emissions to actually start falling, the better for meeting global climate targets.