Beijing shuts roads, playgrounds due to heavy pollution

Beijing: China on Friday was forced to close highways and school playgrounds in the capital city Beijing due to heavy pollution.

This comes as China ramps up coal production and faces scrutiny of its environmental record at international climate talks.

The Beijing municipal government has issued a yellow alert for heavy air pollution which came into force from 4 pm Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported. Under the country’s warning system for air pollution, red is the most severe warning. This is followed by orange, yellow and blue.

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According to the city’s weather authorities, unfavourable weather conditions are blamed for the smog blanketing Beijing and neighbouring regions from Wednesday to Saturday.

China, considered among the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has ramped up coal output after supply chains in recent months were roiled by an energy crunch owing to strict emissions targets, English-language newspaper Bangkok Post reported.

On Friday, a thick haze of smog covered swathes of northern China, reducing the visibility in some areas to less than 200 metres. The city officials said smog is likely to persist until at least Saturday.

Earlier this week, China said it had increased daily coal production by more than one million tonnes to ease an energy shortage that had forced factories to close in recent months.

Back in September this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the UN General Assembly, highlighted the need to accelerate the transition to a green and low-carbon economy while achieving green recovery and development.

“China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” he had pledged.

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