A crackdown on polluting industries in northern China for an unprecedented five months over winter is not a one-off and could hit n iron ore and coal exports.
The winter pollution shutdown, which began in September and will run until March, is set to continue, China’s environment minister says.
n iron ore and coal exports have been hit by a slowdown in Chinese demand since the crackdown on pollution. Steel mills and cement makers in some provinces have had to cut production by 50 per cent, and the sale and use of coal is banned in other cities.
In previous years, the winter shutdown has only lasted a few weeks.”This is not a one-off, it will continue in the future,” said environment minister Li Ganjie of the new measures.
Chinese cities have a deadline of the end of the year to meet clean air goals set five years ago. Some financial analysts had regarded the government-enforced shutdown as a seasonal impact as the government tries to head off air pollution which worsens in winter.
But Mr Li said: “These special campaigns are not a one-off, instead it is an exploration of long-term mechanisms. They have proven effective so we will continue with these measures.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for China to become an “ecological civilisation” and pursue green growth in his report to a twice a decade meeting of the Chinese communist party.
Mr Li said the progress made in addressing air pollution was not enough and China’s energy mix was “still dominated by coal” and the proportion of heavy industry too high.
Speaking to media at a press conference during the party’s 19th national congress, Mr Li said the environmental campaign may have a short term impact on economic growth “but in the long run, the big picture, the impact is minimal”.
He said his ministry was closely tracking economic data in cities where it sent in environmental inspectors, who are closing hundreds of factories, and it showed environmental protection has had no impact on unemployment levels.
“In my view there is a positive correlation between environmental and economic performance,” he said. He also rejected complaints the government was taking a “one-size fits-all approach” with pollution restrictions, and said they were being tailored to different cities.
Companies that were able to correct their mistakes would be put on probation before being shut down for environmental breaches, he said.
Mr Li didn’t specify which of the suite of measures being imposed on northern cities over winter would continue long term.