Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that nearly 14,000 companies, or 70 percent of the businesses they examined, failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution, according to a state news agency report.
The inspectors working for the Ministry of Environmental Protection came up with those results after two months of work across 28 cities in northern China, said Xinhua, the state news agency. The companies and industries varied widely, including businesses such as wool processing and furniture production.
More than 4,700 companies were in unauthorized locations, lacked the proper certificates and failed to meet emissions standards, said the report, which was published on Sunday.
Even though Chinese leaders have vowed to crack down on polluters, the factories continue to contribute to severe levels of air, water and soil pollution. Chinese citizens cite the country’s widespread pollution as one of the issues of greatest concern to them.
The announcement, which was dated June 10 and circulated online this week, also calls into question whether China can fill a global leadership vacuum on the issue of climate change. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has urged countries to abide by the Paris climate accord, even though President Trump is withdrawing the United States, historically the largest emitter, from the accord.
China has pledged to hit certain targets to try to limit or bring down emissions, and its leaders say they intend to curb coal use.
Coal consumption, the biggest source of greenhouse gases, has been flat or declining in recent years, largely because of slowing economic growth. But state-owned enterprises that burn coal — including those in the power, steel and cement sectors — remain powerful and challenge official efforts to limit coal consumption.
Coal is also the biggest source of air pollutants, including the fine particulate matter commonly known as PM 2.5, deemed by scientists to be extremely harmful. The coal-burning steel factories in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, are huge emitters of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
The inspectors sent out by the environmental ministry have been looking at enterprises in what is known as the Jing-Jin-Ji area, a vast urban sprawl that includes the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as Hebei Province. The Beijing municipal area has about 22 million people, and Tianjin 15 million.
In April, the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced it was carrying out a series of inspections over one year to try to improve the air quality. It said about 5,600 inspectors would be sent to Beijing, Tianjin and 26 smaller cities in Jing-Jin-Ji.
The ministry has been posting announcements with some results from the rounds of inspections. The latest announcement said that of 467 enterprises inspected in one recent round, a staggering 350, or 75 percent, had “environmental problems.” The issues included lack of pollution control mechanisms and sewage treatment facilities.
Cities in northern China have some of the worst air pollution in the world, rivaled only by urban centers in India and Iran. Li Keqiang, China’s premier, has vowed to carry out a “war on pollution.”
On occasion, officials in Beijing have had to issue a “red alert,” ordering the shutdown of schools and telling people to stay home because of overwhelming smog.
Source URL: The New York Times