Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - Stricter air quality standards will be adopted in cities, China's State Council announced on Wednesday.
Readings for ozone and concentrations of PM 2.5, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, will be included in the standards, according to a statement issued by the State Council after an executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.
No details of the indices were revealed.
The four municipalities - Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing - and 27 provincial capitals, as well as three key regions, including the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, will monitor PM 2.5 and ozone intensity this year.
More than 100 smaller cities will adopt the new air quality standards in 2013.
The standards will be extended to all cities by 2015 and will help allay public concern over official air quality readings, the statement said.
"Including PM 2.5 and ozone is definitely significant progress in pollution control and environmental protection," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. "Many cities have already started preparations to monitor PM 2.5."
The fight against pollution has seen some success, especially in combating particles in the PM 10 range but "it's good to see stricter standards to reflect the real picture", Ma said.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection started gauging public opinion on revised standards in November and received more than 1,500 letters, e-mails and faxes from people expressing concern over air quality.
Cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have started to monitor PM 2.5. The capital will set up more than 30 PM 2.5 monitoring stations by the end of this year.
China has vowed to speed up the eradication of major polluting industrial plants and replace them with clean energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass.
"Clean energy is a long-term solution for solving the environmental problems faced by the country, but the high cost means it takes time," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.
The power industry is expected to play a leading role in curbing sulfur dioxide pollution and coal-based power plants are a major cause of the discharge of sulfur dioxide, he said.
The National Development and Reform Commission, the main economic planner, has offered preferential pricing terms to plants with sulfur and nitrogen oxide removal systems. These could offset power plants' added costs for protecting the environment.
Targets have been set to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels in the mix to 11.4 per cent by 2015, from 8.7 per cent in 2010.
However, eliminating polluting plants needs concerted efforts.
"Controlling air pollution is not a regional problem," Du Shaozhong, former deputy director of the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau, said earlier. "No city can do it alone."
The statement also mentioned a more stringent emission limit to be imposed on new projects and monitoring vehicle pollution.