China Repeats Pledge to Upgrade Coal Plants After Toxic Smog

China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, repeated plans to upgrade coal power plants in the next five years in a bid to crack down on the kinds of pollutants and heavy smog that this week blanketed northern parts of the country, including Beijing.

The nation plans to cap average coal consumption at existing plants at 310 grams per kilowatt-hour by 2020 and 300 grams per kilowatt-hour at newly-built plants, according to a statement posted on the website of the government following a regular State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. The measures would mean a reduction in raw coal consumption of 100 million metric tons annually, the statement said.

The extensive smog this week that shrouded Beijing in the worst pollution of the year has sparked renewed debate over air quality. Public anger is pressuring the government to act and has been a driving force in China’s support of a global climate agreement in Paris.

The renewed focus on coal plants is helping the government show that “pollution is bad, we’re working on it," said Sophie Lu, a Beijing-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The plans will have more impact on smaller local-generation companies, which tend to operate the dirtiest and most difficult to regulate plants, she said.

Should the renovations be completed, carbon emissions would be cut by 180 million metric tons a year and the discharge of pollutants by the power industry would be reduced by 60 percent, according to the government’s statement.

The Chinese capital plans to reduce average concentrations of PM2.5, respirable pollutants that pose the greatest risk to human health, 15 percent by 2020 from 2015 levels, the municipal government said on its official Weibo account. Beijing also plans to cap annual coal consumption at 9 million tons by 2020.

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— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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