Hebei gets bulk of funds to improve air quality
Updated: 2014-01-09 07:19
By Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang (China Daily)
Northern province met targets for reducing emissions in 2013
Hebei province is to receive more than half of a new 5 billion yuan ($827 million) special fund from the central government for air pollution control, the provincial finance department announced on Wednesday.
In a report to the 12th People's Congress of Hebei, the finance department said Hebei will be given 2.62 billion yuan as both a reward and a subsidy for its efforts last year to contain the development of polluting industries and develop greener industries.
Five other regions - Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, Shandong and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region - were also given large amounts by the Ministry of Finance as subsidies for curbing pollution.
The amount of money each region gets is determined by how well they fulfilled their pollution reduction targets and how much they invested in tackling the problem, among other efforts.
Of the six regions that received the funds, Hebei has more serious problems, with at least five cities having appeared in the list of 10 cities with the worst air quality every month.
In 2013, the province allocated more than 16.5 billion yuan to projects for energy conservation and environmental protection, an annual increase of 28.8 percent, according to the government work report of 2013.
Based on preliminary statistics, the province will have met the reduction targets for air pollutants, with emissions of sulfur dioxide cut by 4.2 percent from 2012 and nitrogen oxide emissions lowered by 5.7 percent, said Chen Guoying, head of the provincial environmental protection department on Wednesday.
The heavy smog that frequently hits the province has forced the public and government to set environmental protection as a priority. The province has taken tough measures to reduce emissions. In 2013, Hebei shut 8,347 small companies causing heavy pollution and reduced the outdated production of steel by 7.88 million metric tons and cement by 17.16 million tons, the 2013 report said.
These efforts hit the economy, especially the iron and steel industry, a pillar for provincial growth, said Hebei Governor Zhang Qingwei.
Hebei province has adjusted its economic growth forecast for 2014, lowering its GDP growth target to 8 percent from 8.5 percent in 2013. But the province will continue efforts to improve air quality even though it will slow GDP growth for a time, he said.
Hebei will also spur the development of green and new strategic industries to pursue healthy and efficient development.
"We will continue to keep a focus on air pollution control in 2014," said Gao Zhili, head of the province's finance department, adding that 2.53 billion yuan from the provincial government will go to projects to curb air pollution and upgrade the economic structure.
About 100 companies and projects with huge growth potential will be given extra support in financing and policies. In addition, new strategic industries including new energy, new material, electronic information and biological pharmacies will also be the first choice in economic development.
"We will give more preferential policies in granting loans to these companies as well, and hope the government can give some preferential policies to help private companies get loans," said Li Xiukun, president of Hebei branch of China Construction Bank.
Two-thirds of companies in the market are small private ones, which have difficulties providing guarantees required by the banks, making it hard for them to get loans and sufficient funding for further development, he said.
"Many of them, though not involving the preferred industries, have been an important force in keeping the economy stable, thus deserving more attention," he said, adding that the bank has cooperated with the governments of Shijiazhuang and Chengde to help the private companies with new loan guarantees.
Workers tear down a production facility at a cement factory in Sanhe, Hebei province, on Friday. Facilities were demolished at 11 cement factories in Hebei on that day as part of a drive to clean up industry and reduce pollution. Li Xiaoguo / Xinhua
(China Daily 01/09/2014 page5)