It is a bit of a relief to hear that Beijing is actually attempting to tackle the pollution crisis for real instead of just banning roadside barbecues. With smog levels in the city dangerously high and classified as hazardous last winter, the Chinese government actually does have a $16 billion plan to deal with the pollution problems in the capital over the next three years, including cleaning up the air quality, improving sewage and waste disposal and putting an end to illegal building.
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One of the major factors contributing to the terrible air quality in Beijing is the sheer number of vehicles on the roads. The government had sought to reduce that number by banning vehicles with a certain number at the end of their licence plates from being used once a week, an effort that began with the Beijing Olympics back in 2008 (when the rules were more rigorous) but has since become effectively useless (and made worse, possibly) as citizens worked around the restriction by simply buying a second or third vehicle.
So it will come as welcome news as the city will be implementing a new automobile pollution tax before the end of the year, according to Gasgoo. These taxes will effectively charge a 17% base tax per litre of gas purchased, as well as a 0.07% urban construction tax and 0.03% percent education tax, raising the current price of gas from $1.30 to $1.62 per litre. This tax will also later be tried out across other Chinese cities.
The air in Beijing (and Hong Kong, for that matter) is normally so bad that whenever a clear day does come along I usually find out about it quite quickly with friends posting pictures of the blue sky all over facebook and instagram. Hopefully these measures really do make a difference and we get to see some more of those blue skies that those of us living in the US and Europe all too often take for granted.