Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang Declares War on Pollution

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Chinese scientists have warned that the country's toxic air pollution is now so bad that it resembles a nuclear winter. In his recent state-of-the-nation speech, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang has acknowledged the impact of environmental, social, and governance— ESG—issues on the country’s economic policies. Li announced that his government has “declared war” on pollution!

 The environmental impact of China’s mainly coal-powered energy generation has been well documented, with levels of toxic air pollution many times higher than accepted safe standards that have negatively affected the economy and health. He Dongxian, an associate professor at China’s Agricultural University College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering, said that new research suggested that if the smog persists, Chinese agriculture would suffer conditions "somewhat similar to a nuclear winter".

Last month in February 2014, the smog that covers much of the country was declared its first “orange” alert, the second highest-level of new pollution standards. There is growing social pressure from the Chinese public and the implications it raises for the government’s governance over the Chinese economy. Indeed, if these smoggy conditions persist, the country's agricultural production could be seriously affected, as currently almost every farm is caught in a smog panic. Earlier this March, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences claimed in a report that Beijing's pollution made the city almost “uninhabitable for human beings”, which is again is being proven. As tourists to Beijing struggle to see the sights they came for, they are often invisible from view because of the thick haze of pollution. To appease this growing group of angry travellers, China's biggest online travel agency now offers smog insurance.

The Chinese government has repeatedly promised to address the problem, but enforcement remains patchy. In October last year, Beijing introduced a system of emergency measures if pollution levels remained hazardous for three days in a row, including closing schools, shutting some factories, and restricting the use of government cars.

The Prime Minister noted that smog was a growing issue that authorities needed to “fight” with more resources—that’s a firm acknowledgement at the highest level that there is a crisis. China has published a series of policies and plans aimed at addressing environmental problems, but it has long struggled to bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local governments to heel. The battle against pollution will also be waged via reforms in energy pricing to boost non-fossil fuel power. Prime Minister Li promised change in "the way energy is consumed and produced" through the development of nuclear and renewables, the deployment of smart power transmission grids and the promotion of green and low-carbon technology.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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