Dec 7, 2015 by


Image caption A street vendor waits for customers at a smoggy Jingshan Park in Beijing

Schools in Beijing are to close and outdoor construction to stop after the Chinese capital issued its first “red alert” over smog levels.

The red alert is the highest possible, and has not been used in the city before, the state-run Xinhua news agency says.

Authorities expect more than three consecutive days of severe smog.

Cars with odd and even number plates will be banned from driving on alternate days.

The alert comes as China, the world’s largest polluter, takes part in talks on carbon emissions in Paris.

Current pollution levels in Beijing are actually lower than last week’s, but the red alert has been placed because of levels expected over the coming days.

The order will last from 07:00 local time on Tuesday (23:00 GMT on Monday) until 12:00 on Thursday, when a cold front is expected to arrive and clear the smog._85344149_china_pollution_comparison_624gr2

China’s CCTV news channel reported at the weekend that some parts of Beijing had visibility of only 200m (660 feet).

In pictures: Smog’s effect on skyline

The smog film taking China by storm

_87076660_9cb87bd0-09c5-4937-a86a-006edb60a6c3‘Air dark from pollution’
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The same building seen in Beijing on 3 December (above) and on 1 December (bottom)
Image copyright Sam_87079455_bjpic2
Image caption Near the East 4th Ring Road, facing west towards Beijing on 1 December…
Image copyright Sam
Image caption … and the same location a day later_87079457_bjpic1

Coal-powered industries and heating systems, as well as vehicle emissions and dust from construction sites, all contribute to the smog which has been exacerbated by humidity and a lack of wind.

At 18:00 local time (10:00 GMT) on Monday, the air pollution monitor operated by the US Embassy in Beijing reported that the intensity of the poisonous, tiny particles of PM 2.5 was 10 times above the recommended limit.

Analysis: Matt McGrath, BBC environment correspondent, Paris

China’s air quality is a key factor in its push for a new global deal on climate change.

Its negotiators here point to their continued investment in renewable sources of energy, in an effort to cut down on coal consumption, particularly in urban areas. Around 58% of the increase in the country’s primary energy consumption in 2013-14 came from non-fossil fuel sources.

These efforts to go green may not be having an immediate effect on the air in Beijing but they have had an impact on global output of carbon dioxide. This year’s figures, just published, show carbon levels have stalled or declined slightly even while the world economy has expanded.

A strong agreement here in Paris won’t immediately solve China’s air woes, but if it ultimately pushes down the price of renewables even further, it could play a part in solving the issue long term.
What are PM 2.5 particles?

Particulate matter, or PM, 2.5 is a type of pollution involving fine particles less than 2.5 microns (0.0025mm) in diameter
A second type, PM 10, is of coarser particles with a diameter of up to 10 microns
Some occur naturally – eg from dust storms and forest fires, others from human industrial processes
They often consist of fragments that are small enough to reach the lungs or, in the smallest cases, to cross into the bloodstream as well

The level in Beijing reached more than 256 micrograms per cubic metre in some of the worst-affected areas. The World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms per cubic metre to be a safe level._72046526_science_hair_graphic_624

Activists said the level hit 1,400 micrograms per cubic metre in the north-east city of Shenyang last month, saying it was the worst seen in China.

In comparison, London’s PM 2.5 average on 6 December was 8 micrograms per cubic metre, the Environmental Research Group at King’s College said. It said more than 70 was reached during spring 2014 and 2015, and the highest was on bonfire night, 5 November 2006, at 112.

Last week, activists from Greenpeace had urged the Chinese government to declare a red alert. Another Chinese city, Nanjing, issued a red alert in December 2013.
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Media captionArtist Kong Ning wants to highlight her concerns over pollution in China

On 30 November, Beijing issued an orange alert – the second-highest of the four-tier system adopted in 2013.

Correspondents say Chinese officials had been unwilling to commit to hard targets on reducing carbon emissions, but have now realised that the dependence on fossil fuels has to stop.

President Xi Jinping vowed to take action on the emissions at the current global climate change talks in Paris.

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