Beijing's Smog Prompts Red Alert Over Air Pollution

The announcement marks the first red alert in the city's history.
Visitors walk toward the Linglong Tower during an extremely polluted day in Beijing on December 1. City officials issued a "red alert" for the first time on December 8, elevating their emergency air pollution response system to its highest level. Toxic air blanketed northern China beginning on November 28; the recent red alert will close schools, restrict the number of cars allowed on the road, and curb other activities through December 10. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Beijing officials issued a "red alert" warning this week in response to the city's smog conditions, the first time the level had been reached since the city's emergency air pollution response system was introduced in 2013.

The alert, which calls for school closures, fewer drivers on the road (cars are allowed to drive on alternate days based on their license plate numbers) and reduces outdoor cooking and smoke-causing activities, took effect on Tuesday.

Related: Fighting Climate Change is Impossible Without China's Help

The alert came as climate talks at the COP21 conference were underway in Paris, where world leaders, including China's President Xi Jinping, are hoping to reach an global agreement on how to tackle climate change and reduce global warming. Major Chinese cities like Beijing are among some of the world's most polluted areas, due in large part to industrial coal burning.