China to Fight Air Pollution With $1.65 Billion Fund

China will set up a 10 billion yuan ($1.65 billion) fund to reduce air pollution in the country’s largest cities, according to a release from a State Council meeting at which Premier Li Keqiang presided.

The fund will aid in efforts to cut fossil-fuel use and control consumption of coal, the country’s largest source of energy, according to a statement posted on the Chinese central government’s website yesterday. It didn’t give details.

Environmental concerns are the biggest source of unrest in China, Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, said last year. The nation is home to 16 of the 20 most-polluted cities on the planet, according to World Bank estimates.

The Cabinet also announced subsidies, tax changes, energy-efficiency standards and pollution controls aimed at improving environmental quality. Efforts will be focused on haze-prone large cities and particulate matter from 2.5 micrometers, or PM2.5, to 10 micrometers in size to reduce the risk of cardiovascular illnesses.

China will reward leaders in efforts to improve energy efficiency and cut emissions, and promote the use of “clean” coal, the State Council said. The country will improve the subsidy policy for new-energy-vehicle purchases, it said.

Exposure to PM2.5 pollution contributed to an estimated 8,572 premature deaths in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an in 2012, and led to economic losses of $1.08 billion, according to a December study by Greenpeace and Peking University’s School of Public Health.

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