In response to the worsening air quality in the highly populous city, the Chinese capital of Beijing will reportedly be launching an “environmental police force” intended to track down persistent polluters.
What this means in practice is that those who illegally burn garbage or wastes, hold illegal open-air barbecues, and/or don’t keep dusty roads under control, amongst other things, will now have to deal with a special police force doing nothing but tracking them down.
The news originates with Beijing’s acting mayor, Cai Qi, as quoted by the official Xinhua news agency. Cai stated: “These acts of non-compliance with regulations are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement.”
Reuters provides more:
“Nearly 3 years into a ‘war on pollution,’ large swathes of northern China were engulfed in smog over the New Year, with dangerous air quality readings in major cities like Beijing, Tianjin, and Xian forcing many people to stay in doors.
“The smog which blanketed cities, disrupting flights, port operations and schools, was caused by increased coal use for winter heating and unfavorable weather conditions.
“The central government has promised to make greater use of police and law courts to prosecute companies and local officials responsible for exceeding emissions limits.
But while China’s environmental legislation has been beefed up in recent years, authorities have long struggled to build up the staff required to enforce laws.
China’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels, especially in the north, made the fight against pollution difficult, China’s environment minister Chen Jining said on Friday.”
This is no doubt why the country has been moving so aggressively in recent years to support renewable energy infrastructure growth. Despite this, though, coal use in the northern provinces is still quite high, especially during cold snaps in the winter.
Interestingly, the environment minister commented that, while the issue was a major one, China would “be able to solve its pollution problems faster than western countries, including Germany,” as summarized (not directly quoted) by Reuters. Here’s a direct quote:
“They needed 20–40 years to solve it. I believe we will do it faster than they did. We shouldn’t lose confidence because of a few days of heavy pollution.”
That’s a bit of a fluffy statement of you ask me. It’s got nothing to do with “losing confidence” (maybe this a bad translation), but rather everything to do with the phaseout of heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle use. It’s a matter of aggressive state-level and consumer-level change — not an easy proposition. Who knows, though, maybe the country will manage to get air pollution under control in under 20–40 years. We’ll see.
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