Beijing - China aims to take drastic action in its battle against air pollution, with six million high-emissions vehicles set to be pulled off the road by the end of the year, the country's council of ministers announced Monday.
According to Interior Ministry statistics, there were 137 million vehicles in the country at the end of last year. This number will be reduced to 132 million at the end of 2014, with another five million vehicles to be removed in 2015.
China is the world leader in domestic car sales. However, the rising number of vehicles sold each year is exacerbating the country's already rife air pollution problems. Last year, only three of the country's 74 large cities were rated as having clean air.
In the capital Beijing, residents suffer almost daily from dangerous levels of fine particle pollution. Authorities blame cars for about one-third of the poor air quality there. Under the new initiative to take vehicles off the road, lorries and buses will likely be the initial targets, says Julian Schwabe, an analyst of the commercial green technology group China Greentech Initiative.
"This step is long overdue," he said. China's Environment Ministry first floated the idea of removing vehicles with high emissions from the roads several years ago. Statistics from 2012 show that around 16% of all vehicles fell into this category.
Past initiatives to reduce emissions include limits on the number of license plates issued in Beijing and Shanghai. In a kind of lottery system, 20 000 new vehicle registrations are issued in Beijing each month. Last March, the Chinese leadership announced it would intensify its battle against the country's air, water and soil pollution problems.
"We are declaring war on environmental pollution," said Premier Li Keqiang, adding that new programmes would be aimed at ameliorating the worst effects of pollution.