Beijing's Forbidden City on a blue-sky day in June 2018
Image： Ben & Gab/Flickr
Source: US embassy, Beijing
Following a previous Air Pollution Action Plan (2013-2017), a new 2018-2020 Three Year Action Plan was published by the government in July. The new guideline requires cities with low air quality levels to achieve at least 18 percent fall in PM2.5 density on a 2015 baseline by 2020.
It is worth mentioning that the scope of targeting cities were expanded to at least 231 cities that not yet met a national standard of 35µg/m³ of PM 2.5, while the previous plan was only targeting the clusters of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and the PRD and Yangtze Delta. The new targets are made with the recent progress on air quality. Residents in Beijing in particular have recently been breathing cleaner air and seeing bluer skies this as a result of the national efforts to continuously crack down air pollution.
Monthly density trend of different components of pollution in Beijing, 2017
Image：Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau
Cameras record the moment as an operator presses the stop button for the last turbine array operating at the plant. Image： VCG
Figures released by Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau show that the average of PM2.5 density in Beijing from January to July this year was lowered to 55 micrograms per cubic meter, a 14.1 percent drop compared to the same period last year.
The PM2.5 levels in the capital in July also came in at 50 micrograms per cubic meter, down by 3.8 percent year on year. This improvement is also reflected in the data gathered the US embassy in Beijing. According to the data release, pollution level in July was one of the seven lowest since 2008, and five have been recorded since the start last summer.
The significant improvements to air quality were made following the implementation of Air Pollution Action Plan which was released in September 2013. It made PM2.5 density targets for different regions, requiring 15 percent and 33 percent reductions in Pearl River Delta area and Beijing. Figures released by Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau show that the average of PM2.5 density in Beijing from January to July this year was lowered to 55 micrograms per cubic meter, a 14.1 percent drop compared to the same period last year.
AQI map of China at a glance, 22/08/2018 Image：aqicn.org
In the end Beijing achieved the goals (from 89.5µg/m³to 58µg/m³) by massive investments. According to China Daily, Beijing has replaced four major coal fired power plants by gas fired ones between 2013 and 2017, which cost around 50 billion RMB. Similarly, about 8,000 taxis using more than two years old three-way catalytic converters were required to fit new ones under the city’s environmental protection framework in 2017.
Although the improvements in air quality were impressive, Beijing and other Chinese cities still have a long way to go to reach the WHO recommended standard, annual average PM2.5 level of 10µg/m³. No Chinese city has currently achieved the target, and only 107 of 338 cities reached WHO’s interim standard of 35µg/m³ in 2017.
To achieve the new goals, all levels of government are required to promote clean energy, restructure industrial layout, and develop new transport means. All the tasks will put pressures on local officials as the implementation is challenging.