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Beijing ‘declares war’ as it gets tough on air pollution

Beijing unveiled yet another slew of measures yesterday to curb a choking pollution problem, including limiting the number of new vehicles on the roads and closing or upgrading the facilities of 1,200 companies.

The capital city has tried everything from shutting factories to a massive subway building program as it battles a severe air pollution problem, but with little effect.

The latest measures are part of its broader plan to reduce the density of harmful particles in the air by at least 25 percent by 2017.

“It’s a declaration of war against PM2.5,” Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau said in a statement on its website, referring to tiny particles in the air that pose the greatest risk to human health.

“The city will work relentlessly to improve air quality.”

In the newly unveiled measures, Beijing will place tougher restrictions on the number of new vehicles allowed on the roads each year, curbing annual growth to nearly zero.

The government aims to cap the number of vehicles in the city at 6 million by the end of 2017, compared with 5.35 million by the end of July, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Beijing also aims to reduce total vehicle fuel consumption by at least 5 percent from 2012, by promoting the sale of new energy and small vehicles, and encouraging people to drive less frequently.

The city government will also restrict the number of vehicles allowed in specific areas during certain times of the day, starting next year, it added.

“In order to curb vehicle emissions, we have to introduce a market mechanism to reduce intensity of vehicle use,” Xinhua quoted city environmental official Li Kunsheng as saying.

Beijing, along with Shanghai and two other cities — Guangzhou and Guiyang — is already subject to new car sales restrictions, while eight more cities plan to follow suit, China’s automobile association said in July.

Carmakers including Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co have all said they are shifting their attention to China’s lower-tier cities, as sales growth in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai starts to stagnate.

Other measures to be introduced to clean up Beijing’s air include ordering 1,200 polluting companies to upgrade or close some or all their facilities in the years to 2016.

“In regions or industries that fail to meet air pollution reduction targets, no new projects that emit major air pollutants will be given regulatory approval as of 2013,” the Beijing bureau said.

“Companies who break environmental laws will be banned from receiving bank loans, fundraising through initial public offerings and value-added tax breaks starting this year.”

Smoke from factories and heating plants, winds from the Gobi Desert and fumes from millions of vehicles can combine to blanket the city in a pungent shroud for days on end.



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