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
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0707 GMT (1507 HKT)
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
ADVERTISEMENT