Shanghai has announced plans to charges polluters for emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), introducing a new tariff that state media have called a “smog fee.”

The move was introduced by the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, the Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission, and the Shanghai Municipal Finance Bureau on Wednesday.

Smog in Shanghai. Photo: Wikicommons.

The Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau said that the emission charges for VOCs will increase over a course of three stages.

Companies will be charged RMB$10 per 1000kg from October 1, 2015; RMB$15 starting July 2016; and RMB$20 from January 2017. The charges will also be gradually extended at each stage to include more industries.

A spokesperson for the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau said that VOCs are necessary for the formation of smog and PM2.5 air pollution. Currently, VOCs are the biggest source of pollutants in the air over Shanghai, the Bureau told online news media The Paper.

Industries that have been asked to lower their concentration of pollutants will also be penalised with further charges if they failed to meet targets.

Meanwhile, industries that are slated for elimination or categorised as having ‘limited development’ potential will be charged 1.5-2 times the baseline rate for their emissions.

It is expected that the plan will bring levels of industrial VOCs down by 50 percent by the end of 2017.

The emission fees collected will be directed to government coffers and classified under the category of general public budget management. They will then be used for other pollution prevention initiatives, according to the plan.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.