Chinese firms are required to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2017 according to a directive from Beijing.
The new rules require companies to improve their pollution control equipment with excess emissions would inviting penalties. According to analysts the enforcement of the targets would fall on local governments.
The announcement left unsaid which industries would be subject to the new emissions rules. However, earlier this year ministers hinted that new targets would be set for industries such as iron, steel, petrochemicals and cement.
Environmental protests have been growing in China with scores seen in the recent past.
The emissions targets came as a part of a document that outlines steps to meet the environmental challenge.
The State Council announced the emissions targets as part of a document that approved 10 measures for tackling environmental problems, including:
Curbing growth of energy-consuming industries like steel, cement, aluminium, and glass
Denying permission for new industrial projects if they did not measure up to the standards
Tightening enforcement of the current penalties regime.
Some of the biggest and most successful recent protests in China have been triggered by environmental degradation caused by manufacturing enterprises. Environmental issues have drawn massive support in recent years and in 2007, residents of Xiamen staged a series of protests against the construction of a chemical factory in the area, forcing the local government tp back down.
Meanwhile local government leaders have been charged with the responsibility of improving air quality, officials said, after heavy smog across China earlier this year led to social discontent.
The announcement by the State Council, or cabinet, came with a range of other policies aimed at cutting emissions of pollutants -- from forcing industries to install anti-pollution equipment to strengthening the collection of fines.
China has faced heavy criticism in the past for incentivising local officials to pursue economic growth even as they emphasised on meeting environmental targets, leading to lax enforcement of environmental laws.
However, the country would "build a targeted responsibility and evaluation system for cities and provinces based on air quality improvement," a report of a State Council meeting carried on its website on Friday stated.
The statement suggests that local officials will be assessed on improving general air quality, rather than merely facing targets for reducing emissions of individual pollutants.
It was also agreed at the meeting, chaired by premier Li Keqiang, that the government would not approve industrial projects which failed to meet emissions standards, and curb the growth of highly polluting industries including steel and aluminium manufacturing, the report said.
The capital Beijing earlier this year saw levels of particulate matter in the air reach almost 40 times World Health Organization limits, as other cities in China were hit by high levels of pollution, provoking outrage nationwide.