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China says to start claiming compensation from polluters

Policemen wear protective masks at the Tiananmen Square on an extremely polluted day as hazardous, choking smog continues to blanket Beijing, China on Dec 1, 2015.

[SHANGHAI] The Chinese government plans to begin claiming compensation from polluting companies and individuals, particularly those who damage state property, over the next two years, China's cabinet has said.

The State Council said on its website late on Thursday it would trial the policy in a few provinces before rolling it out nationwide in 2018. The plan would cover air, water and soil pollution, as well as damage to plants and animals.

China already allows government-registered environmental organisations that have been operating for at least five years to launch legal action against polluters.

High pollution levels have sparked widespread social unrest and become a major concern for China's leadership. Environmentalists say China's big polluters routinely exceed government emission limits.

China's capital Beijing suffered choking pollution this week, triggering an "orange" alert, the second-highest level, closing highways, halting or suspending construction and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.

That coincided with a meeting of world leaders in Paris to address climate change. China said after the meeting on Wednesday it would cut emissions of major pollutants in its power sector by 2020.