Another win for Beijing! A win for Hebei! And hopefully a win for the environment! On Friday Beijing and Zhangjiakou (a relatively unknown city in Hebei Province, about 200 km north west of Beijing) were named as the joint host cities of the 2022 Winter Olympics. 

The Games have come under much criticism due to Beijing’s environmental situation. The city’s pollution is known around the world. But, increasingly, so too is its commitment to clean up the smog-laden air, reform energy sources and green the city. As the first city ever to host both the summer and the winter games, Beijing is making Olympic history. But can Beijing use this moment to make environmental history too? We believe it can.

The 2022 Winter Olympics could provide a real and unique opportunity to accelerate the process of and create new momentum for environmental change in China. Both China and the world are waking up to the reality of pollution and climate change, and as the world’s expectant eyes turn to China once again, authorities will be under pressure to put on a clean, environmentally friendly, green Games.

However, Beijing has seen many an ‘Olympic Blue’, ‘APEC Blue’ and ‘[insert important event] blue’, periods of temporary face-giving clean skies. The real challenge, and the real expectation of the people of Beijing, Zhangjiakou and the surrounding area, is for Beijing to use the the 2022 Winter Olympics as an opportunity to establish an ‘everyday blue’, a permanent healthy environment for her citizens.

In this regard, 2022 should serve as a natural future milestone in Beijing’s environmental agenda. Most significantly, it should provide an incentive for authorities to come up with a strict and more ambitious Clean Air Action Plan for Beijing for the post-2017 period, when the current plan expires. Talks for a 2018-22 Clean Air Action Plan have already begun, and the date of 2022, when Beijing will have a global stage on which to display its environmental progress, will surely pressure authorities into ensuring results.

2022 will not be the goal, the destination, for measures aimed at cleaning up the environment, but rather a showcase of the progress made up to that point.

The unique environmental opportunities the 2022 Winter Olympics have given rise to must not be wasted. The next seven years will be the time to secure both a green games and a lasting green legacy. Let’s make the Winter Olympics a win for both Beijing and the environment.