China’s capital, one of the world’s most polluted cities, may force half of the city’s over 5.6 million cars off the roads for the entire winter season when coal-fired heating causes a lot of smog, a top official said on Friday.
Beijing, a booming city of over 21 million people and over 5.6 million cars, has enforced the odd-even plate number restrictions in the past during severe smog and also for big international events such as the 2008 Olympics and the Apec summit in 2014.
However, the new regulations may ban almost half of the city’s cars for the entire winter period.
Lawmakers attending the plenary session of the People’s Congress and Political Consultative Conference said on Friday that cutting vehicle emissions is the only way to battle air pollution, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The measures would be applied during the “winter heating season” from around mid-November to mid-March, said Li Shixiang, vice mayor of Beijing.
Vehicle emissions account for 31% of the city’s smog sources, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.
The odd-even rule, based on license plate numbers, take about a fifth of vehicles off the roads each weekday.
“Beijing wants to improve its smog warning mechanism and refine traffic restriction measures to make them more effective,” a spokesperson for the Beijing Municipal Transportation Commission said.
Last month, traffic authorities announced that Beijing was likely to try a congestion charge for road users.
However after a public outcry, Li said no timetable had been set and promised no abrupt implementation of the rule.
Beijing has rolled out various policies to improve air quality, such as cutting back on coal use and phasing out outmoded vehicles, the report said.
In the past five years, Beijing has cut coal use by nearly 14 million tonnes and weeded out 1.8 million outdated vehicles.
The city administration has also promised to remove 200,000 high-emission vehicles from the roads and promote the use of clean energy in 400 villages this year.