BEIJING, Aug 12 (Reuters) - China's capital Beijing cut total coal consumption by 7 percent in the first half of 2014 as part of its efforts to tackle smog, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing data from its environmental protection bureau.
Beijing is at the front line of a "war on pollution" declared by the central government earlier this year in a bid to head off public unrest about the growing environmental costs of economic development.
The city has already started to close or relocate hundreds of factories and industrial plants. It will also raise vehicle fuel standards and is mulling the introduction of a London-style congestion charge.
To reduce coal consumption, it is in the process of shutting down all of its ageing coal-fired power plants and replacing them with cleaner natural gas-fired capacity or with power delivered via the grid.
Based on last year's coal consumption level of 19 million tonnes, the 7 percent cut would amount to around 1.33 million tonnes per year. Beijing has said previously that it plans to reduce total coal use by 2.6 million tonnes in 2014. By 2017, it aims to slash consumption to less than 10 million tonnes a year.
The Beijing environmental bureau said the city had cut total sulphur dioxide emissions by 5.43 percent over the first six months of the year. It also took 176,000 substandard vehicles off the road over the period.
Previous data issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection showed that concentrations of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 in Beijing stood at 91.6 micrograms per cubic meter in the first half of the year, down 11.2 percent year on year but still more than twice as high as the recommended national standard of 35 mcg.
Much of the pollution that hits Beijing drifts in from the surrounding province of Hebei, a major heavy industrial region that was home to seven of China's 10 most polluted cities in the first half of the year.
Under new plans to integrate Beijing with Hebei and the port city of Tianjin, the region will be treated as a "single entity" with unified industrial and emission standards.
Hebei said last week that it had cut total coal consumption by 7.53 million tonnes in the first half of 2014, amounting to just over half of its target of 15 million tonnes for the year.
The province agreed last year to cut total coal use by 40 million tonnes by 2017, and it is also planning to shed at least 60 million tonnes of excess steel capacity over the same period.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry)
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