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China to set stricter targets for polluting cities in heating season

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By Min Zhang and David Stanway

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s environment ministry said on Friday that the anti-pollution campaign for this year’s autumn-winter heating season will set stricter emissions targets for cities that had higher concentrations of damaging particles last time around.

Cities that actually met pollution targets last year will be exempt from targets this year, Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) spokesman Liu Youbin said, speaking at a briefing in the capital.

The strategy comes as China enters its sixth year of an aggressive clampdown on pollution in a bid to cut smog that envelops many cities during the winter months, when homes and businesses crank up heating.

The ministry didn’t provide details on precise levels for concentrations of PM2.5 – lung-damaging particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter – that will be set for those cities that did not meet last year’s targets. But preferential treatment for cities that performed well is part of China’s efforts to put an end to what it calls “one-size-fits-all” measures.

According to a draft for the key smog control zone of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei circulated on industry websites, the target for the capital itself is zero growth in emissions from last year. The remaining 27 cities will be expected to cut concentrations of PM2.5 by between 1% and 11%, or an average of 5.5% during the 2019-2020 autumn-winter season.

Even a cut of 11% will not be enough to offset the increase in pollution in some cities last year.

Ministry spokesman Liu did not comment directly on details, but said the ministry had already sent a draft to local governments to solicit their opinions.

Reuters calculations based on official data showed that only four out of the country’s 28 key pollution control cities in northern China met their targets last year, including Beijing, Changzhi, Jincheng and Jining.

Cities likely to be given even more stringent targets this winter include Langfang, Baoding, Zhengzhou and Anyang, all of which saw double-digit percentage growth in PM2.5 last winter.

(Reporting by Min Zhang in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Writing by Shivani Singh in Beijing; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell)

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