Air pollution

The following is an excerpt from our report: Tracking back the smog.

In China, as clear and concrete pollution reduction goals at the central and local government levels are being set, public concern for a deteriorating living environment continue to mount. Due to a lack of detailed analysis on PM2.5 composition and emission sources, answers to the questions how much air pollution should be reduced and how to accomplish this reduction remain unclear.

Our latest report "Tracking back the smog" is the first of its kind to comprehensively analyze PM2.5 air pollution sources in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and to assess to what extent the region should act to reach the air quality targets set by China's Ministry of Environmental Protection. 

In Beijing, industrial processes are a major source of primary PM2.5, and the precursor gases (SO2, NOx and VOCs) are mainly emitted by the energy and transport sectors. Based on our analysis of potential control measures, we hereby put forward these suggestions for actions to reduce PM2.5 emissions in Beijing by 2022:

  1. Shutdown coal-fired power plants within the capital boundary, increase percentage of electricity from renewable sources in total energy mix, and boost distributed solar and wind power. Renewable energy can be sourced from surrounding areas;
  2. Shutdown all existing iron and steel plants and most cement plants. Install fabric filters in cement kilns and ban new cement plants;
  3. Apply the National VI Emission Standard to light-duty gasoline cars and heavy-duty diesel cars, and increase the percentage of buses and cabs fueled by clean energy to over 40%;
  4. Escalate the adoption of end-of-pipe treatments in the electric power sector. Install flue gas desulfurization and de-nitration equipment for all fossil fuel power plants. Use low-NOx burners and install fabric filters;
  5. Reduce VOC emissions from industrial processes.

And while Beijing, and neighbouring provinces Tianjin and Hebei are each tackling air pollution on their own, they should also build regional air pollution prevention and control mechanisms as soon as possible.

Ultimately, effective control of PM2.5 emissions has to integrate a full set of policy measures. These include reducing coal use in energy provision, strict enforcement of end-of-pipe treatment technology, monitoring of major emitting industries, upgrading small-scale boilers, and implementing regional air pollution monitoring and early warning and emergency response systems. 

Head here to read the executive summary of our report 'Tracking back the smog'.

Lead image © Greenpeace / Wu Di