China will further improve air quality under a three-year plan that will provide residents in 338 cities more good-air days－accounting for 80 percent of the year－and lower pollution levels by 2020, Li Ganjie, minister of environmental protection, said at a weekend conference.
After the five-year national campaign against air pollution marked a satisfying end in 2017, the new three-year plan is about to kick in for a better environment and green growth, Li said at the two-day national environmental protection work conference which concluded on Saturday.
By 2020, residents in 338 cities will enjoy more days with good air quality, meaning the air quality index will measure 100 or less, accounting for 80 percent of the year－or about 292 days, he said.
Besides, the air pollution in some cities will be further cut so the average concentration of PM2.5－hazardous fine particles and a key indicator of dangerous air pollution－will be lowered so it is 18 percent less than the level in 2015.
In 2017, 29 percent of 338 cities－or 98 cities－met the air quality standards, data from the ministry showed.
Action plans for air pollution control will also be introduced in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and surroundings, the Yangtze River Delta and other target areas. The Pearl River Delta was not listed among the major regions, since it already reached the standard three years in a row.
"We should push forward the measures to adjust the industrial and energy consumption structures and improve the traffic system in a bid to win the battle against air pollution," said Li, adding that the controls should be stronger in cities with severe smog.
Since 2013, China has taken strict measures to control air pollution, including efforts to reduce coal consumption, shut down polluting plants and encourage vehicles with clean fuels as well as adding tougher punishments on polluters.
In 2017, China exposed and punished over 230,000 pollution cases nationwide, with punishment including heavy fines of 11.6 billion yuan ($1.84 billion), increasing by 265 percent from the level in 2014, data from the ministry showed.
The mix of strict controls led to dramatic improvements in air quality. For example, the capital saw PM2.5 levels fall by 34.8 percent from the 2013 level and blue skies have persisted since October.
But China still faces severe environmental pollution, that requires lasting attention, the minister said, adding there are good opportunities to make improvements considering the technologies becoming available and the capacity to restore and protect the environment.