Air pollution and carbon emissions in China have mainly been attributable to coal burning and industrial production during the early stage of economic development. In megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai, emissions from vehicles have become an increasing problem too. Combing climate policy and vehicle emissions standards could tackle the air pollution problem. However, the prevention and control of air pollution is a long and complex process that is now in “transition stage”, guided by the principles of sustainability and energy conservation, and also intensified by the pressure from the society.
Although China has achieved remarkable results in improving air quality, air pollution still spikes in many areas around the country, especially in northern China during the winter, because most domestic heating there is fuelled by coal.
Concerned about ongoing health risks linked to high concentrations of air pollutants, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has recently taken measures that are expected to improve air quality in China. These include carrying out performance evaluation for iron and steel enterprises, putting a price on carbon dioxide and lowering emissions that degrade air quality, and setting vehicle emissions standards. What remains to be seen is how effective these measures will be in reducing China’s air pollution problem. For instance, Tianjin has adopted mandatory emission reduction measures for industrial enterprises, dust pollution and mobile source pollution, and stopped outdoor spraying, painting, cutting and slope protection spraying operations, and established new vehicle emission standards. Changchun will implement the “one microgram” action plan, focusing on seven aspects, including coal combustion, industry, motor vehicles, dust, straw burning ban, cooking fumes, heavy pollution weather response, and 32 stringent air pollution prevention and control measures. Shanxi Province also requires the whole province to do a good job in dealing with the recent heavy polluted weather, and the special action of “100 days clearing” will be carried out, focusing on monitoring and checking the implementation of emergency emission reduction measures in various cities. From September 24 to October 2, Zhengzhou took a series of measures, such as restricting the number of motor vehicles within the urban area.
Some industry experts pointed out that although great achievements have been made in the work of pollution reduction in recent years, the industrial structure dominated by heavy chemical industry, energy structure dominated by coal and transportation structure dominated by highway have not been fundamentally changed.
To solve the problem of air pollution fundamentally, we need a long-term process, more patience and determination, perseverance and long-term success. China can achieve economic development, energy security and reduce pollution at the same time, and low-carbon growth can help China become a high-income country while reducing air pollution.
To contribute to this cause, here at WieTec we created a platform that illustrates how research and technical innovation exchange between industry professionals can bring about new ways to understand the problems of the current policies, and increase public engagement of air pollution in China.