EcoAlert: China Shuts Down Up to 40% of Its Factories in Unprecedented Fight Against Pollution–“We Will Be Able to See Stars at Night”

 

Smog

 

"For those areas that have suffered ecological damage, their leaders and cadres will be held responsible for life," said deputy director of the Communist Party's Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, Yang Weimin, told The New York Times. "Our people will be able to see stars at night and hear birds chirp.


"It's a huge event. It's a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal," exporter Michael Crotty from China-based MKT & Associates told NPR. "The consumers of China don't want red and blue rivers. They don't want to see grey skies every day."

 

"What has been happening is historic. It is at a turning point, and it is a comprehensive change," Li Ganjie, minister of environmental protection, proclaimed during his introductory remarks at a news conference held on the sidelines of the Communist Party National Congress, a pivotal political event in China held every five years. Efforts to tackle environmental issues over the past five years have been "unprecedented," Li said. He also stressed that protecting the environment "has no influence" on economic growth and employment, but he gave little evidence to back this statement.

China is in an all-out crackdown on polluters violating emissions standards, closing tens of thousands of factories in a massive effort to address the nation's catastrophic pollution problems. China's modern efforts to tackle domestic pollution date back to 2013, when the nation announced 10 measures to clean up the country's air, including reducing emissions from heavily polluting industries by 30 percent by the end of 2017.

Weimin said "our economy has achieved results that attract global attention, but the indisputable fact is, the [deterioration of the environment] has become a weakness for national development and an impediment for people's well-being."

Estimates suggest as much as 40 percent of China's factories have been temporarily closed by safety inspectors, with officials from more than 80,000 factories charged with criminal offences for breaching emissions limits over the past year.

The months-long campaign coincides with China announcing this week at its Communist Party congress its plan to cut the concentration of hazardous fine particulate matter (called PM2.5) from 47 micrograms per cubic metre in 2016 to 35 micrograms by 2035. "It will be very difficult to reach the goal, and we need to make greater efforts to achieve it," saidv environmental protection minister.

"[B]asically, you're seeing these inspectors go into factories for surprise inspections," supply chain consultant Gary Huang from 80/20 Sourcing told NPR. "They're instituting daily fines, and sometimes – in the real severe cases – criminal enforcement. People are getting put in jail."

In previous winters, city officials have been directed to enforce closures for only a few weeks at a time, but with 2017's end-of-year targets just months away, China is shuttering polluters at a rate Li calls "unprecedented". "These special campaigns are not a one-off, instead it is an exploration of long-term mechanisms," Li announced this week. "They have proven effective so we will continue with these measures."

Power plants and factories are still adjusting to the new enforcement of the environmental regime, and while thousands of companies are experiencing hardship right now, many think the industry will adapt with better, smarter, and safer ways of doing business that ultimately don't endanger Chinese air – or the planet as a whole.

The Daily Galaxy via Asia Review,   NYT  and NPR 

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