Tired of dying a little bit extra with every breath? Don’t worry, blue skies are ahead, someday.
“We will make our skies blue again,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed in front of nearly 3,000 delegates inside the Great Hall of the People, marking the opening of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing on Saturday.
Li promised to “work faster” in cleaning up China’s infamously smoggy air, announcing measures that are set to cut down on the burning of coal in 2017, including replacing coal with electricity and natural gas in over 3 million homes, shutting down all small coal-fired furnaces in prefecture level cities and upgrading existing coal plants so that they will achieve “ultra-low emissions and energy conservation.”
At the same time, Li tipped the balance just a tad more towards the environment over growth, setting a target of just 6.5% growth in 2017, down a bit from 6.7% last year. In recent decades, China’s unprecedented level of growth and development has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but it has also left them living inside an airpocalypse.
Premier Li failed to say exactly when the blue skies will be here again. Currently, China suffers from the world’s deadliest air, though in recent years environmental measures have managed to slow the rate of harmful pollutants filling up the air. Still, of 338 Chinese cities at prefecture level and above, only 84 achieved average air quality last year at or below the national standard. Even the Smog Free Tower has proved to be no match against China’s PM2.5-filled skies.
So, obviously, it will take a while before we are enjoying permanent “APEC blue” skies. Last week, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that China is aiming to eradicate severe smog by 2030. Something to look forward to, but don’t hold your breath.
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