China is set to offer financial rewards to companies in an effort to encourage them to clean up their operations, after setting up a $1.65 billion (£990m) fund. Air pollution, driven by industrial growth and low environmental regulation, presents a huge challenge for the country.
According to local news agency Xinhua, the central government will monitor the total emissions from each province and take that into consideration for each local government’s political achievements.
Many areas of China rely on the tax paid by companies that have carbon intensive operations, resulting in the enforcement of environmental regulation differing depending on the area. It is hoped the new subsidies will encourage more environmentally friendly practices and operations.
This year, a total of 300 polluting factories in Beijing will shut down to improve the city’s air, the municipal government has confirmed. A list of industrial projects that will be halted or suspended will be published by the end of April.
Air pollution is a big problem in the country, particularly in urban areas. In January, pollution levels were more than 25 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Beijing. A former Chinese health minister previously estimated that up to 500,000 premature deaths were caused by air pollution each year.
As a result of the challenges, China is embarking on the world’s biggest renewables drive. Over the next six years, the country aims to double the number of wind turbines it uses to generate electricity.
But pollution is not just a health issue. Last month, the Chinese government revealed that 3.33m hectares of its land was too polluted to grow crops, meaning the country may have to import more food to feed its growing population. Industrialisation is likely to be one of the reasons for the contamination.