Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Sales of cleaner vehicles in the Chinese market increased more than 60 percent from last year as the world's second-largest economy greens up, data show.
Data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show total sales of 2.19 million vehicles last month marked a 5.3 percent increase from August 2016. Sales and production of alternative vehicles like hybrids and electrics increased more than 60 percent from last year. At 68,000, sales are up 76.3 percent and, at 72,000, production is up 67.3 percent year-on-year.
China is the second-largest economy in the world and, for eight years running, the largest car market in the world.
"The robust growth came as China has intensified efforts to encourage the use of new energy vehicles to ease pressure on the environment, by offering tax exemptions and discounts for car purchases, and ordering government organizations to buy more new energy cars," China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Beijing hinted earlier this week it would join some of its European counterparts by working to phase vehicles powered by fossil fuels out of the market. Xin Guobin, China's vice minister for industry, was quoted by Xinhua as saying "the measures would surely bring profound changes to the sector's development," but offered no timetable for implementation.
The British government opted for a goal of removing gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from the market by 2040 after a court found plans to cut emissions weren't tight enough to meet European Union pollution limits. French Environmental Minister Nicolas Hulot said in early July the country would end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 and become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of its efforts to address the goals in the international Paris climate agreement.
Zhong Shi, an automotive industry analyst, was cited by Xinhua as saying that if China moved slower than its European counterparts, it would run the risk of falling behind its global peers in the shift to a low-carbon economy.
China could gain the global advantage in the drive to develop a low-carbon economy because the United States under President Donald Trump has put more emphasis on the development and use of fossil fuels. The U.S. government in early August notified the United Nations of its intent to leave the international Paris climate agreement "as soon as it is eligible to do so."
China's National Development and Reform Commission said last month about 150 million kilowatts of new coal-fired power will be halted or postponed under a five-year plan ending in 2020. The government said controls would ensure clean-energy resources are promoted further.