SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The smog-prone Chinese province of Hebei will proceed “steadily” with plans to convert households from coal to gas heating this year, as it bids to cut concentrations of hazardous airborne pollution by more than six percent.
Hebei, which produces nearly a quarter of China’s steel, aims to cut average PM2.5 concentrations to 61 micrograms per cubic meter this year, down from 65 micrograms in 2017, according to an account of a provincial government meeting posted by China’s environment ministry late on Thursday.
Earlier media reports suggested Hebei would postpone plans to convert more households to cleaner-burning natural gas after widespread shortages put thousands of residents at risk and deprived factories of supplies during the freezing winter.
But the province said it would “unswervingly” work to reduce pollution from coal burning and would proceed cautiously with the conversion program, while at the same time guaranteeing heating access over winter.
It will also continue to crack down on vehicle pollution, and will ban the transportation of coal by diesel trucks, strengthen controls on car exhaust emissions and eliminate as many as 80,000 outdated vehicles this year.
Hebei province, which surrounds the capital Beijing, has been on the front line of China’s war on pollution, and it managed to bring PM2.5 down by seven percent last year after introducing special emissions restrictions on industry and curbing traffic and coal use during the winter months.
The province has already promised to cut PM2.5 to an average of 57 micrograms by 2020.
Hebei said this week that it was also trying out a new punishment and reward system aimed at encouraging municipal and grassroots-level governments to improve air quality.
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry