During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the world was exposed to the crippling smog that residents of the city are exposed to on a daily basis. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see Beijing residents wearing masks to ward off the effects of what’s floating around in their air.
The rest of the country faces similar environmental issues and after years of posturing, the government is taking action to mitigate the problem.
It’s taking 6 million older vehicles off the roads this year in an attempt to offset the problem, although it hasn’t provided the plans yet for doing so.
The order comes after China failed to meet official pollution-reduction goals for 2011-2013. The government said vehicles registered before 2005 that fail to meet cleaner emissions standards will be “phased out,” in a released statement.
The plan also calls for filling stations in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities to switch to selling only the cleanest grades of gasoline and diesel.
The government may have felt it had no choice. Beijing has some of the strictest emissions rules on the planet for cars, but until recently, the enforcement has been lax and the efforts largely ineffective.
The first 5 million cars will be taken from Beijing, which is perpetually covered a thick layer of choking smog, as well as the the port of Tianjin and the deltas of the Yangtze River, around Shanghai, and the Pearl River, around the southern business center of Guangzhou, the government said.
Where the remaining 1 million vehicles due to be taken off the road will come from is unknown.
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There are 240 million vehicles on the road in China, and half are passenger cars, according to the Ministry of Public Security. In addition to the removal of vehicles from the cities, the government has pushed through other changes.
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Taxi fleets and public buses in major cities have been required to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas or battery power. Additionally, the government has been trying to help with the rapid development of a viable electric vehicle.
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In fact, Elon Musk, Tesla Motors founder and CEO, recently traveled to China to deliver the first eight Model S sedans sold to Chinese owners. He said the country was ready for an influx of similar EVs and that the maker’s future in China was bright.
Cities like Beijing and Shanghai have instituted restrictions on new vehicles to cut down on the pollution there.
Beijing will also shut 300 polluting factories this year and publish a list of industrial projects to be halted or suspended by the end of April, state news agency Xinhua said.
In February, the government said it would set up a 10 billion yuan ($1.65 billion) fund to fight air pollution, including offering incentives for companies that clean up operations. Overall the government has pledged to spend more 3 trillion yuan ($494.9 billion) to fix the problem.