Zhou Shengxian, the environment minister, said Beijing would publish a five-year plan in the coming weeks which would include a commitment to pump an additional 100 billion yuan into his ministry’s coffers each year.
Speaking at an environmental forum in the south-western city of Guiyang, Mr Zhou, said the plan would focus on slashing levels of PM2.5, a minute airborne particulate which has been linked to a host of ailments including heart and lung disease.
“The central government is very determined” to combat such pollution, Mr Zhou said last weekend, according to the influential Chinese magazine Caixin.
The plan was reportedly approved by the country’s State Council in June but few precise details have been made public.
It will seek ways to reduce emissions from industry and boost energy efficiency as well as working to control pollution from vehicles and improving fuel quality, according to the Xinhua news agency. Money would also be invested in monitoring and early warning systems designed to detect pollution.
Chinese state media described the plan as “a landmark effort in the government’s fight to control air pollution.” Under “tough” new measures, “sectors that produce large amounts of waste and pollution” will be “strictly” controlled, with China’s steel and cement industries to face particular scrutiny.
The environment minister has reportedly promised to promote “a shift away from coal as the main energy source”, according to Caixin, although no details of how that might be achieved were given.
China is currently the world’s top coal consumer and producer with nearly 80 per cent of its electricity coming from the fossil fuel. In 2011, China consumed 3.45 billion metric tons of coal – almost half of the global total – according to America’s Energy Information Administration.
Xi Jinping’s first months as China’s president have coincided with growing public outrage over the risks air pollution is posing to public health.
Mr Xi has repeatedly vowed to clean up his country’s waterways and skies in order to build a “Beautiful China.”
At 1.7 trillion yuan £180 billion the air pollution plan would be more than double the size of the defence ministry’s annual budget, which this year hit around 740.6 billion yuan £78.5 billion.
Jun Ma, the chief economist for Greater China for Deutsche Bank, told the Wall Street Journal that recent government moves to clear the country’s skies represented “the most aggressive policy effort to address air-quality issues in Chinese history.”