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China has been plagued by smog in recent years, especially in the region around Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province. The pollution remains heavy and needs to be curbed immediately. Issued in 2013 by the State Council of China, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution, the strictest ever of its kind in the country, defines a clear target for decreasing the density of PM2.5 and outlines a workable action plan. More recently, the National Academy of Development and Strategy (NADS) at Renmin University of China published Report on Policy Evaluation of Smog Governance in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, which confirmed that the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region still faces an uphill battle to meet the targets set for 2017.
“At its core, the smog problem in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is because the total volume of pollution in the region has greatly surpassed the local environment’s carrying capacity,” says Shi Minjun, publisher of the report and research fellow of the NADS.
The Outline of the Plan for Coordinated Development for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, released in 2015, lists environmental governance as one of the top three priorities. “Coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is a key strategy,” adds Shi. “Through the established mechanism, administrators can solve urban problems facing Beijing and still limit air pollution while promoting industrial transformation. Development in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province has reached different levels, so each place has different capabilities to handle pollution. With the improvement of governance, coordinated pollution fighting has become more important.”
The report concludes that the solution to smog control is adjusting the industrial structure. Merely shutting down factories cannot eliminate smog throughout the region. Industrial transformation should move forward so that the volume of pollution can be controlled and the environmental burden decreased.
“Industrial restructuring must have some impact on the economy,” explains Shi. “But the economic system has the ability to adjust automatically to adapt to the transformation and alleviate the impacts. So local governments have to face up to the short-term effects resulting from smog control on the local economy and public livelihood.” Actually, Shi believes that if the possible health cost brought by smog is taken into consideration, the economic cost of smog control is not so massive.