Skip to main content

China to shame worst-polluting cities over and over in push for green action

By Ramy Inocencio and Feng Ke
September 19, 2013 -- Updated 0916 GMT (1716 HKT)
China's capital Beijing, seen here in contrast between blue-sky and smog-filled days, recorded historic air pollution levels in January 2013. Hazardous air quality days have pushed Beijing to enact stricter air pollution policies for the country -- including naming and shaming the nation's top ten worst polluting cities. China's capital Beijing, seen here in contrast between blue-sky and smog-filled days, recorded historic air pollution levels in January 2013. Hazardous air quality days have pushed Beijing to enact stricter air pollution policies for the country -- including naming and shaming the nation's top ten worst polluting cities.
HIDE CAPTION
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
China names, shames worst-polluting cities
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China to name and shame top ten worst-polluting cities each month
  • 'Air quality control is ecological red line,' says Chinese vice-premier
  • Beijing, Tianjin, cities in northern provinces have signed plan to speed up air pollution control
  • Seven of world's top ten most air-polluted cities in China, says ADB report

(CNN) -- Let the naming and shaming begin.

China will start to point the finger at its top ten most air-polluted cities -- each and every month -- in the hopes that national humiliation will push positive environmental action. A parallel list of the nation's ten cities with best air qualities will also be published.

Beijing's political -- and very public -- pressure on its most polluted cities comes within a year of the capital reporting its worst air quality levels in recorded history and an Asian Development Bank study showing seven of the world's top ten most air-polluted cities were in China.

"We must put air quality control as an ecological red line for economic management and social development," said China's Vice Premier Zhang Gao Li, in a statement. On Wednesday, he announced the new policy at the 18th Air Pollution Control Conference in Beijing.

Pollution: China's 'airpocalypse'
Choking on pollution as China grows
Beijing's pollution merely 'hazardous'
Greenpeace on Beijing's hazardous smog
Reality check on Beijing's pollution

"Air pollution control is a long, arduous and complex mission. We need to highlight the control of major polluted cities and strengthen the reduction and management of various polluters," added Zhang.

Chinese officials did not say when the first list would be announced, but the northern megacities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as the surrounding provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shandong have signed onto an official plan to speed up air pollution control measures.

This past August, an official environmental assessment found these six regions to be China's most polluted.

"I think the policy is a very good inspirational mechanism, especially for those cities on the 'shaming' list, so that they can work to get off the list quicker," said Huang Wei, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace China, to CNN.

"However, it is not enough to rank those cities. It's also important to control energy, especially coal consumption. Some cities didn't clarify how much they are going to reduce their coal consumption. The lack of a number makes us worried that there won't be any dramatic change in terms of air quality."

Earlier this month, the central government said it would stop approving coal-fired power plants in more heavily polluted industrial areas.

It also announced a national blueprint to lower the concentration of harmful particles in the air -- much of it caused by the burning of coal -- by at least 10% between 2012 and 2017 levels.

In heavily polluted areas, including China's north, targets will be more stringent. Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, all signatories to this week's new air pollution control plan, aim to cut particles by 25%. In southern China's Pearl River Delta, across the border from Hong Kong, the goal is 15%.

"We know high-ranking officials really want to tackle the (air pollution) problem but in reality how much does this help?" said Sum Yin Kwong, CEO of the Clean Air Network in Hong Kong, to CNN.

"It all might be more symbolic because when you look at the regional or local level, growth is measured by GDP, not by how environmental the city has become. I'm not too optimistic," added Kwong.

China is the world's largest consumer of coal by volume and will continue to be for years, relying on the fossil fuel for 70-80% of its energy needs, according to various experts and the World Coal Association. Much of that energy goes towards electricity for factories and for winter heating. Beijing says it hopes to reduce the nation's coal consumption to 65% by 2017.

In comparison, Australia draws about 75% of its electricity from coal, according to the Australian Coal Association. The United States generated 37% of its electricity from coal in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As people in China have grown wealthier, they have increased demands on the government for a cleaner environment.

This past July, a landmark study by Chinese and international academics revealed that severe pollution and toxic air slashed an average of five and a half years of life expectancy for residents of northern China.

According to a recent Greenpeace report, 83,500 people died prematurely in 2011 from respiratory diseases in Shandong, Inner Mongolia and Shanxi -- China's top three coal-consuming provinces.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0437 GMT (1237 HKT)
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT)
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 0812 GMT (1612 HKT)
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT