An official from China’s northern Hebei Province has pledged to use the staging of the 2022 Winter Olympics to drive efforts to cut smog, promote clean energy and ease dependence on heavy industry.
The 2022 winter games awarded to China last year and the city of Zhangjakou, around 200 km from Beijing, will stage skiing and snowboarding events.
But the plan has fuelled concern, as Beijing is prone to air pollution and Hebei, one of the country’s most polluted cities, largely because of its dependence on heavy industries; such as coal-fired power and steel production.
Hebei would work to meet targets for cutting industrial overcapacity, coal consumption and air pollution, the provincial Communist Party Chief, Zhao Kezhi, said at a weekend meeting on preparations for the Olympics.
"We must use the staging of the Winter Olympics as an opportunity to stimulate economic and social development, speed up our transformation and upgrading, expand effective investment and strengthen poverty alleviation," Zhao said, in an account of the meeting published on Hebei's government website on Monday.
Hebei, home to China’s seven smoggiest cities last year, aims to cut coal consumption by 40 million tonnes over the period from 2013 to 2017 and slash its 2013 levels of small particulate matter to almost half by 2020. It will also reduce its annual crude steel capacity to below 200 million tonnes by 2020.
Zhangjiakou plans to boost total renewable electricity capacity to 1.28 gigawatts by 2017.
It is already the site of 500 megawatts of wind capacity, 100 MW of solar panels and 70 MW of power storage capacity at a renewable energy demonstration project run by the China State Grid Corporation.
The plans included the planting of new forest and the creation of an ecological conservation zone around Zhangjakou, where a “renewable energy demonstration zone” would also be set up, said Zhao.
The facility tests new renewable equipment models, with fuel cells designed to offset the intermittent nature of wind and solar power for safer connection to transmission lines.
China has repeatedly vowed to hold environmentally-friendly Winter Games.
Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games to wide acclaim, but its bid for the Winter Games was dogged by concerns over issues ranging from the city's notorious smog problem to a lack of snow and the country's poor record on human rights.