China approves package of air quality measures

China's State Council adopted 10 measures designed to improve the country's air quality, including a mandate that coal power plants release detailed information on emissions to the general public.

The raft of new policies, enacted June 14, requires better cooperation between cities and provinces. A lack of cooperation between regions has proved a problem for pollution-cutting efforts in China. Beijing, a city that first became known for its smog during the 2008 Olympic Games, is attempting to cut its use of coal-fired power, but nearby cities such as Hebei and Tianjin are stepping up their use of coal to power industry.

The policies will take programs tested out in certain cities and apply them nationally. For example, Beijing and Shanghai have banned more heavily polluting vehicle fuels to limit tailpipe pollution.

The council also called for more cities to prepare emergency response plans for heavy pollution, including limits on local industries.

The cabinet ordered large sources of emissions to reduce pollution based on the "renminbi," a unit of economic output. Emitters will have to cut emissions for each renminbi by 30 percent by the end of 2017. A growth in economic output would require less pollution cuts.

Street protests in China have, at times, blocked or slowed the expansion of polluting industries. In the Guangdong and Hainan provinces, protestors blocked the construction of coal power plants. A project to build a copper smelter in Sichuan Province was canceled after a large protest.

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