The Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, has promised to step up his country’s battle against deadly smog, telling an annual political congress: “We will make our skies blue again.”
China’s cities have become synonymous with choking air pollution in recent years, which is blamed for up to 1 million premature deaths a year.
Speaking at the National People’s Congress in Beijing, Li admitted his country was facing a grave environmental crisis that had left Chinese citizens desperately hoping for relief.
Li unveiled a series of smog-busting measures including cutting coal use, upgrading coal-fired power plants, slashing vehicle emissions, encouraging the use of clean-energy cars and punishing government officials who ignore environmental crimes or air pollution. “Key sources” of industrial pollutants would be placed under 24-hour online monitoring in an effort to cut emissions.
The prime minister vowed that levels of heavy particulates would fall “markedly” over the coming year but did not cite a specific target.
“Tackling smog is down to every last one of us, and success depends on action and commitment. As long as the whole of our society keeps trying we will have more and more blue skies with each passing year,” he said.