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Beijing to ban polluting cars during smog alerts

The capital will beginning next year ban highly polluting old cars from being driven whenever air quality alerts are issued in the city or in neighbouring regions, Beijing’s environmental protection bureau said on Monday.

China has adopted various measures over the years to reduce the blanket of smog that shrouds many of the country’s northern cities in the winter, causing hazardous traffic conditions and disrupting daily life.

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As of February 15, vehicles that did not meet the government’s standards on emissions – in practice, those vehicles that are more than 10 years old – would be banned in Beijing’s main urban area whenever orange or red alerts were issued in Beijing or neighbouring Hebei province or Tianjin, the bureau said.

Motorists with vehicles violating the restrictions would be fined 100 yuan (HK$115) for every four hours they were on the road, it added.

Cars at the National 1 or National 2 emissions standards, which the rules are aimed at, only account for 8 per cent of the cars in the city, according to the bureau.

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But these older cars accounted for more than 30 per cent of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions, the bureau said.

The adjustment to regulations also said that schools would only be closed selectively during alerts, in contrast to the blanket approach that was used originally when Beijing issued its first ever red alert in December.

The government has been tweaking the new system since its introduction, working to unify it around the region of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, and in February raised the minimum threshold for issuing alerts.

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The Beijing municipal government is also taking measures to reduce the emissions of vehicles driven in the capital by using number plate restrictions.

This will limit the overall number of cars and provide generous subsidies to electric vehicle purchasers to promote fuel-replacement vehicles.