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Chinese government to spend $277 BEEELION on air-quality improvements

US House Republicans plan moves in opposite direction

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The Chinese government has launched an ambitious – and expensive – new plan to aggressively combat some of the world's worst air pollution.

According to a report in the US edition of China Daily, the central government has pledged to invest 1,700 billion yuan ($277bn) in support of the effort, which will focus on improving air quality in Northern China, particularly the capital of Beijing, plus the city of Tianjin – China's fourth largest metropolitan population center – and the adjacent Hebei province.

The Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, as the effort is called, will run from 2013 through 2017, with a goal of reducing air pollution by 25 per cent when compared with 2012 levels.

Northern China's air pollution is significantly worse that that in the south of that country. A recent paper published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for example, noted that "total suspended particulates (TSPs) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy," due to the fact that the concentrations of TSPs are 55 per cent higher in the north.

Zhao Hualin of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said that the just-announced plan, which was finalized last month, would be one of three measures that the government will introduce over the next five years to improve conditions in the Middle Kingdom; the remaining two will focus on water pollution and rural environmental improvements.

"The thick smog and haze that covered large areas of the country in January has focused public attention on this issue," Zhao said, referring to the "Airpocalypse" pollution disaster that blanketed Beijing and environs at the beginning of this year.

Wang Jinnan of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, China Daily reports, said that although the introduction of the new plan would have negative effects on local economies due to the elimination of dirty industrial production methods, it would have a balancing effect of aiding green industries, an increasing focus of China's R&D efforts. Wang also said that the plan would boost China's GDP by 2,500 billion yuan ($407bn).

In other news, Bloomberg reports that the US Republican party members in the House of Representatives, who voted to significantly hamstring and defund that country's Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, is now proposing to chop $2.8bn from the EPA's 2014 budget – a cut of about a third.

House Republicans would also prevent the EPA from instituting any new rules concerning sulfur in gasoline or water use by power plants, and would prohibit EPA spending on the development of greenhouse-gas regulations for power plants, an effort that Bloomberg characterizes as "the centerpiece of Obama's climate plan." ®

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