China's state planner calls for vigorous enforcement of dirty coal ban

A worker speaks as he loads coal on a truck at a depot near a coal mine from the state-owned Longmay Group on the outskirts of Jixi, in Heilongjiang province, China, October 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's state planning commission urged better enforcement of a ban on dirty coal, calling for violators to be more vigorously punished, as the world's largest energy consumer continues to grapple with rampant air pollution. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) called for the proper implementation of the ban on the import and local sale of coal with high ash and sulfur content, in a statement dated for Nov. 30 and posted on its website on late Wednesday. "Environmental protection departments should strengthen inspections for enforcement of coal emissions meeting targets, and more vigorously punish violations," the NDRC said in the statement. The ban on the import and sale of lower grade coals came into effect in January 2015. The restrictions are most stringent in the affluent and polluted cities around the Pearl River Delta in the south, the Yangtze River Delta in the east, and the capital city, Beijing, in the north. China relies on coal to provide 64 percent of its energy, contributing to the choking smog smothering its major cities. The capital issued its first air pollution "red alert" this week, banning heavy vehicles, restricting the number cars on the road, advising schools to cancel classes, and requiring outdoor construction to stop. China, also the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, has said it will cap coal consumption at around 4.2 billion tonnes by 2020, lowering the fuel's share in its energy mix by increasing the use of renewable energy. (Reporting By Kathy Chen and Adam Rose; Editing by Tom Hogue)