China plans a five-year, $277 billion spending spree to clean up the country’s killer air.

The government of the heavily polluted nation pledged to clean up its skies after air-pollution levels reached dizzying new heights early this year. The announcement coincides with other nascent environmental initiatives, such as a carbon-trading system to tackle climate change and, bizarrely, legal changes that could see serious polluters executed.

Beijing
Chris Aston
Filthy air in Beijing.

Many wondered whether the pledge to tackle air pollution was mere rhetoric, but this week’s announcement suggests that China is taking the problem seriously. From Reuters:

The money is to be spent primarily in regions that have heavy air pollution and high levels of PM 2.5, the state-run China Daily newspaper quoted Wang Jinnan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning as saying. Wang helped draft the plan. …

The new plan specifically targets northern China, particularly Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province, where air pollution is especially serious, the newspaper said.

The government plans to reduce air emissions by 25 percent by 2017 compared with 2012 levels in those areas, according to the report.

It’s not only residents of China who would benefit from a serious campaign to improve air quality. Pollution from the region travels over the Pacific Ocean on jet streams to the West Coast of the U.S., taking as little as a week to arrive.