Beijing's airpocalypse drags on, minister vows punishment

Schools in Beijing were shut on Monday after China issued a smog warning, with the thick shroud of grey cloud expected to hang over northern cities until Thursday.

State media outlet Xinhua reported that China's National Meteorological Center had issued a yellow alert for moderate to heavy smog, and said that the air pollution would only be dispersed on Thursday by a cold front.

The country has a four tier color-coded weather alert system, with red as a warning of extreme weather, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

In February, China's state council announced a new contingency plan for environmental emergencies, setting out details such as the responsibilities of authorities, monitoring and reporting duties and response procedures.

Chinese Environment Minister Chen Jining threatened on Sunday to punish agencies or personnel who failed to initiate the emergency response plan in a timely manner.

Local environmental protection agencies should examine their emergency response measures and consider its shortcomings, he said at an emergency meeting.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection also dispatched inspection teams to regions with serious pollution to ensure emergency plans were launched, to monitor and manage pollution sources, as well as to enhance management on vehicles that could not meet emissions standards, reported Xinhua.

Last week at the Paris COP21 summit, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to world leaders reinforcing China's commitment to reduce carbon dioxide per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent over the 2005 level, and raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its main energy consumption.

The Beijing smog, also known as the "airpocalypse," is caused by atmospheric pollutants or gases that are released into the air when fuels are burnt.

-- Xinhua contributed to this report.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.