Chinese premier Li Keqiang has pledged to make the country’s skies blue again and “work faster” to address pollution caused by coal burning.
His words to delegates at the opening of the annual National People’s Congress highlight how public discontent has made reducing smog, the most visible of China’s environment problems, a priority for the leadership.
In a report to China’s ceremonial legislature, Mr Li said people are “desperately hoping for” faster progress to improve air quality.
“We will make our skies blue again,” he declared to almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
He said the government intends over the next year to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions and energy conservation, and prioritise the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid.
Mr Li said: “All key sources of industrial pollution will be placed under round-the-clock online monitoring.”
Environmental groups welcome the disclosure of such data because it allows the public to directly supervise the emissions of plants in their areas.
Lauri Myllyvirta of Greenpeace said the group had expected the government to announce a speeding-up of measures because air pollution is supposed to hit targets this year that were laid down in 2013.
They include a 25% reduction in the density of fine particulate matter – a gauge of air pollution – in Beijing and the surrounding region from 2012 levels.
“It will require very dramatic steps to achieve those targets for this year,” Mr Myllyvirta said.
He added that Greenpeace also hopes to see a measurable target for reducing wasted wind and solar power generation capacities, “because that’s when different parts of the government will be really held accountable for integrating wind and solar fully into the grid”.