China plans to take 5 million polluting cars off the road

China plans to call more than five million aging cars off the road in an effort to curb its intensifying air pollution.

There are currently more than 5.33 million “yellow label” vehicles in the country that fail to meet China’s national fuel standards. The government plans to remove at least 330,000 cars from Beijing alone. Car emissions are responsible for 31 percent of the hazardous airborne particles in China’s capital city, with coal burning responsible for 22.4 percent.

Improving the environment has been an urgent priority for the Chinese government in recent years and the country has already fallen behind its pollution reduction goals for 2011-2013 period, according to the State Council, or China’s cabinet. “China did not yet set a timeline for the plan to remove polluting cars.”

Earlier last year, China’s State Council said it would raise the national fuel standards within the next four years to meet those of the U.S. and Europe. In April, the Chinese legislature decided to set strict punishments against companies and individuals caught polluting the environment.

But setting standards and changing behavior are two different tasks. Beijing officials have reportedly admitted that regulating the number of “yellow label” vehicles has been difficult due to lack of policing capability.

Air pollution is the most visible environmental problem in China, but the nation’s water is in terrible shape as well. The water supplies have been shut off to major cities and the water and soil pollution has created a crisis for China’s agriculture.