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Position:BCAA News»How Far China Need to Go in Attaining its Air Quality Standards?

How Far China Need to Go in Attaining its Air Quality Standards?Post date: 2017-08-17

Aug 16th, 2017, Beijing:  while entering the final year of the 2013-2017 Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan ( Air Ten Measures), many of the local government put their work focus on achieving the targets mandated by the plan. The Air Ten Measures had already achieved important milestones. Along with the implementation of the plan, the public awareness on potential health risks brought by air pollution is widely deepened. Now it leaves the most critical question on the table ‘When can China meet the air quality standards and could always restore blue skies?’

To support cities to set-up long term air quality management mechanism, the Clean Air Alliance of China (CAAC) just released a tool, the City Air Quality Attainment Planning Manual, which is developed by the Innovation Center for Clean-air Solutions with the reference of international and domestic experience, and with contributions from leading air quality management experts. Energy Foundation China provided funding support for the manual development.

‘Actually, to make sure that the air quality in China could keep improving, China will be faced with a great change in reforming environmental management. The air pollution issue is very complex, and the management system has to cover many more management details, and the policy decisions should be made with sufficient scientific support.’ said by Tonny Xie, the director of Innovation Center for Clean-air Solutions, ‘within all the initiatives, the air quality attainment plan is one of the most important part, as is a revolutionary progress in management mechanism.’ Air quality attainment plan is a systematic management model, which plays a critical role in achieving air quality goals. It consistently plans and assesses the performance of air quality measurements and applies customized technical solutions in city air quality management. Under its comprehensive infrastructure, the development of energy, transportation and industrial plans will be pre-constraint.

Air quality attainment plan is not something new but a proven model in United States and UK and has been taken into practice for many years. In U.S., the enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 (1970 CAA) established air quality attainment plan mechanism, while in UK the similar act was taken since the Environment Act 1995. Both practice resulted in win-win for both air quality and economy development.

Improving air quality will also significantly benefit to curbing climate change. According to a report released by the Clean Air Alliance of China, the achieving of air quality goals will also bring huge reductions in greenhouse gas emission. Based on preliminary estimates, by achieving air quality goals in 2030, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region will be up to 2.1 million tons, which is about the equivalent to that absorbed by 7.8 million mature trees in one year.

“Air quality attainment plan requires government pay attention on air quality target for all city planning activities. It will urge cities to have more actions on pollution source control and optimizing energy structure, which will bring significant co-benefits to greenhouse gas reductions”, said Zhao Lijian, program director at Energy Foundation China.

The China government did also aware of the importance of air quality attainment plan and put a requirement in the revised Air Pollution Law in 2016, stated clearly that ‘The cities who have not meet the national air quality standard shall draw up air quality attainment plan’. A couple of cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen had already started the research, while many others remain in silence. The challenge is obvious. Air quality attainment plan is not just new but also quite complicated which involves delicacy coordination and cooperation across a number of departments.

‘The manual aims on helping those cities who has strong desire to implement air quality attainment plan, in a systematic and scientific way.’ Tonny Xie said, ‘we are looking forward to see that both the air quality and economy growth are achieved through our support. In this regard, Shenzhen is undoubted a pioneer in China’. As the first Chinese mega city with over ten million population attained to the national air quality standards, Shenzhen also experienced very high GDP growth over the past ten years. Now Shenzhen committed to reach to a higher air quality improvement targets beyond the standards, and Shenzhen’s annual PM 2.5 concentration plans to decrease to 25 µg/m3, which is equivalent to European levels.  It is envisioned that in future, there will be more and more Chinese cities join in this “Win-Win” army with both blue skies and GDP.