Five-year economic development plan outlined by China calls for a move away from coal in part to address air quality concerns. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
BEIJING, March 16 (UPI) -- A five-year economic development plan unveiled by China called for strengthened efforts to control pollution and a gradual shift away from coal.
A National Economic and Social Development plan outlined a series of measures aimed at controlling air, water and soil pollution.
"We will upgrade coal-burning power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions [and] promote clean and efficient use of coal," the statement read.
China has issued a series of so-called red alerts, the highest level of the country's air-pollution response system, since introducing the metric in 2013. The red alert restricts vehicle, factory and construction activity.
In November, air pollution in parts of the capital was at levels nearly 40 times higher than limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
Coal-based heating and industrial activity in Beijing are key contributors to the air pollution. The five-year plan calls for stricter rules on energy conservation and a stronger focus on industries associated with environmental protection.
Beijing last year was one of the countries supporting a climate declaration outlined in Paris.
"We will actively address climate change," the plan read.
A report from the Brookings Institution found coal use in China may have peaked and is starting to slow down as the country shifts from an economic strategy of quantitative growth to one geared to quality. Coal consumption declined last year after dropping 2.4 percent in 2014, part of what the report said was a long-term trend.
The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council extended praise from across the Pacific Ocean, describing Beijing's plans as its strongest commitment yet to a low-carbon economy.
"These decisive steps to combat climate change will be good for the health of the Chinese people and good for our planet," NRDC President Rhea Suh said in a statement.