BEIJING, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) — China’s newest air pollution draft law no longer contains clauses allowing local governments to restrict or ban vehicles to fight air pollution, China’s top legislature saw on Monday.
The first draft of the Air Pollution Control Law allowed local governments to restrict or ban vehicles in specified areas and during specified times. The second draft adds a clause that said restrictions should consider public opinion.
The clauses are deleted after lawmakers and members of the public argued that the restrictions “are related to” citizens’ rights to property. The law has sparked a “huge public reaction”.
It is up to local legislature to decide whether a driving ban will be adopted in their jurisdiction, and driving restrictions will only be provided in local legislation based on actual need, according to the report.
In a bid to control smog, Chinese cities have begun to restrict the use of vehicles. In Beijing, vehicles are restricted one out of five weekdays based upon the last numbers of their license plates. As lawmakers discuss the draft amendment, half of Beijing’s cars are off the road.
A traffic restriction will be imposed from Aug. 20 to Sept. 3, allowing even-numbered license plate owners to drive on some days and odd-number drivers to drive on others, as the city gears up to host the IAAF track and field World Championships and the World War II victory parade.
The draft amendment also adds a slew of new restrictions and requirements to clean up air.
CONTROL POLLUTION SOURCE
With China’s gasoline standards lower than those of automobile exhaust, the draft amendment proposed that a gasoline quality standard should be established and matched with the country’s restriction requirements for major pollutants, and oil refining enterprises must observe the criteria in their production.
For instance, some environmental protection indicators have set too high a ceiling for permitted content of olefin and arenes in gasoline, major contributors to PM2.5. A report from the National People’s Congress Law Committee said the bar should be up a level to address the root causes of automobile pollution.
Moreover, heavy use of coal has always been blamed for smog. The previous draft required gradually cutting coal use in consumption of primary energy. However, some legislators pointed out that the coal-heavy energy mix cannot be altered overnight, the Law Committee report said.
The new amendment then adds a clause saying the country should promote clean and efficient use of coal. Besides, it obliged local governments to ban low quality coal for residential uses.
In order to control the source of agricultural pollution, the new amendment requires local governments to promote change of the business-as-usual agricultural production, and circular economy.
Meanwhile, it bans dispersing highly toxic pesticides into trees and bushes in densely populated areas.
CONTROL POLLUTION FROM SHIPS AND VEHICLES
The previous draft authorized governments above county level to examine vehicle exhaust in parking lots.
The current version adds that vehicles running in streets may also be tested for emission pollution through means of remote sensing and other technologies.
Air quality in coastal areas is heavily impacted by ships which are fueled by sulfur-intensive heavy oil. In response, the current version proposed that a control area for pollutant discharge of ships be designated.
Ships entering the area must conform to relevant emission requirements.
GREATER ENVIRONMENTAL TRANSPARENCY
Environmental authorities of the State Council should evaluate provincial-level governments on their attainment of air quality improvement targets.
Likewise, provincial-level governments will assess cities within their jurisdictions in this regard, and results of assessment should be made public, the draft says.
The draft also adds other items to be disclosed publicly, including air quality standard, catalogue of major polluters, contact information of environmental authorities and supervisors, test results of emission of freshly-manufactured vehicles, sources and fluctuations of air pollution in important areas.