Beijing's mayor vows to move the city away from coal as air pollution concerns mount across the Chinese capital. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The mayor of Beijing said the city would move to improve air quality across the region by taking a dramatic step away from the use of coal.
China accounts for about 50 percent of the global demand for coal and, because of the size of its economy, that translates to about half of the world's total coal production. In Beijing, coal-based heating and industrial activity are key contributors to air pollution
Beijing Mayor Cai Qi said the city was taking extra abatement measures by cutting the use of coal across some of the municipal regions.
"We will try to basically realize zero coal use in six major districts and in Beijing's southern plain areas this year," he was quoted in the official Xinhua news agency as saying. "We will slash coal use by 30 percent to less than 7 million tons in 2017."
Air quality in Beijing is considered among the worst in the world. The Chinese capital has in the past closed schools and halted construction work as its air quality passed a threshold set by the World Health Organization for human safety.
Without citing causes, a separate report from Xinhua during the weekend said more than half a million people die in China every year from complications tied to lung cancer.
"It is an urgent task for Beijing and its neighboring areas to work together and improve air quality in the region," the city's mayor said.
The Chinese government last year issued a white paper that outlined the approach to development under the guidance of the Communist Party of China, saying China is "committed to the concept of environment-friendly development." State media in January was critical of the White House for pledging to move the U.S. economy closer to fossil fuel development.