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China targets steel industry as latest front in its war on pollution

China has shifted its focus in the battle for clean air to the steel industry after cutting emissions from coal power plants, the former top polluter. On Sunday, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and four other ministries released a joint directive intended to ensure steel mills in the country’s most polluted regions meet ultra low emission standards by 2025. The announcement cited a leading environmental scientist’s estimate that the measure could reduce particulate emissions in areas around Beijing and the Yangtze River Delta by around 20% and lower the concentration of PM 2.5, the deadliest small particles, by as much as 9%.
According to the latest plan, steel plants much comply with ultra-low emission standards, which means that sinter plants will have to reduce emissions of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to 10, 35, and 50 milligrams per cubic metre respectively, as opposed to the current standards of 50, 200 and 300 mg/m3.
The goal is for 60% of steel mills in key regions to have completed the transformation by 2020 and 80% of steel plants in the country to complete it by 2025. Plants that complete the upgrades will receive more support on taxes, finance, and environmental protection policies.
Mr Ma Jun, director of a Beijing-based NGO, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said “The enforcement of the new standards will have a positive effect. In the long run, it’s beneficial for the industry.”
China is the world’s top steel producer. Last year its crude steel production reached 928.3 million tonnes. Production is highly concentrated in the northern Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, causing severe pollution in this region.


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