BEIJING, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Beijing on Monday unveiled a package of measures to curb vehicle emissions over the next five years as part of the capital's increasing efforts to improve air quality in the city.
The package is part of an action plan released by the municipal government, which has pledged to reduce PM 2.5 density by 25 percent or more by 2017.
According to the package, the municipal government will restrict the number of new cars on the road each year from January 2014.
By 2017, the number of vehicles in the city is expected to be no more than 6 million, according to the package. Statistics from Beijing Traffic Management Bureau show the city had 5.35 million vehicles by the end of July.
By promoting new energy and small displacement vehicles, reducing intensity of vehicle use and strictly enforcing regulations, the government expects to reduce total vehicle fuel consumption by 5 percent or more compared with 2012.
The city's traffic management and environmental protection bureaus will prepare traffic control rules for passenger cars by the end of 2013 which will mainly focus on time and area restrictions. The rules are expected to be implemented in 2014.
In addition, vehicles from other cities will be subject to more time and area restrictions from 2014 at the earliest.
The municipal government has also vowed to cover downtown areas with at least 480 km of bus lanes and introduce a public bicycle rental system by 2017 in order to make public transportation 60 percent of total vehicle trips made in the city.
According to the plan, air quality will improve significantly by 2017, with PM 2.5 density controlled to around 60 micrograms per cubic meter.
PM 2.5 are airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter which can pose health risks.
In 2012, the number of long-term residents in Beijing increased by 507,000 year on year, hitting 20.69 million, and energy consumption was up 84 percent from the previous year, according to official statistics.
These additional pressures are equivalent to adding a small or medium-sized city to Beijing, according to government estimates.
Increased population and energy consumption aside, vehicles in the city are a major contributor to Beijing's pollution -- and one that keeps growing.
A report issued by a research team under the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed that vehicle exhaust is among Beijing's top sources of air pollution, contributing to 22.2 percent of PM2.5 in the city, exceeding the figure of industry emissions.
"In order to curb vehicle emissions, we have to introduce a market mechanism to reduce intensity of vehicle use," said Li Kunsheng, an official in charge of vehicle emission management with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
Li said that relevant government departments should make changes to parking costs and raise fuel prices, with the extra money used to deal with emission reduction.
"But both means should be carried out carefully as they may affect people's livelihood," Li added.