A Chinese law passed Sunday places taxes on pollution, but doesn’t include carbon dioxide (CO2).
The law will go into effect in 2018 and taxes air and water pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and sulfite at $0.17 and $0.20 per unit of emissions, respectively. Chinese officials said the law is intended to eliminate these pollutants, not to fight global warming.
The anti-pollution legislation comes less than a week after China’s smoggiest cities were forced to close their schools due to six straight days of extreme air pollution. Over 460 million in 20 cities across most of northeast China are currently gasping for air.
“Over the last 48 hours, levels of PM 10—a measure of particulates in the atmosphere—have been literally off the charts in the city, repeatedly maxing out at 999,” states an Associated Press summary of the pollution wave. “Levels of the smaller PM 2.5 particles, tiny enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and thought to be a major contributor to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, reached as high as 733, more than 29 times the World Health Organization’s daily recommended maximum of 25.”
China is the world’s largest emitter of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Joint Program on the Policy of Global Change found that China’s pollution woes are largely due to the country’s reliance on coal power. China seems to be planning on doubling down on coal. Of the 2,400 coal-fired power plants under construction or being planned around the world, 1,171 will be built in China.
MIT scientists recommended that China replace coal with natural gas. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide (CO2) and pollutants of coal power, and is already cheaper than coal in many locations in the U.S. due to fracking.
China is working to replace coal with cleaner-burning natural gas. As a first step, the government aims to boost the share of natural gas in its primary energy supply from 6 to 10 percent by 2020. However, China doesn’t have as favorable of geology for natural gas fracking as America, so it may need to import large quantities.
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