Bell tower in Linfen

Premier Wen Jiabao has agreed to release a revised Environmental Air Quality Standard in a State Council meeting yesterday, as part of efforts to strengthen overall air pollution control.

The release of this new standard sends a particularly strong signal to the country, since meeting the new standard will be included in the performance evaluation of local governors by 2016. The challenge to clean up the air is huge and urgent, and local governments have very little time to take real action to meet the deadline. They need to get started now.

This is the first time the top leaders have emphasized regional controls on air pollution. The revised standard offers concrete methods to clean up the air. Some of the highlights include the development of clean energy and the phasing out of outdated industrial and energy production capacity.

Curbing coal burning is core to the enhancement of regional air quality. However, this was not emphasized in the official meeting release. China's total consumption of coal increased hugely last year, with the highest growth rate of the last decade. The air pollution issue cannot be solved if coal consumption is not checked.

Image © Natalie Behring / Greenpeace


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