We all know China has a severe air pollution problem, particularly in big cities such as Beijing. But what can - or dare we say, must - be done about it? The most basic solution for air pollution is to end its root causes: quit coal and move away from fossil fuels, replacing them with clean, renewable energy.
But in the short-term there are other smaller steps that can also help reduce air pollution. Our reports "Dangerous Breathing" and "Ranking Eastern Chinese cities by their 'clean air' actions" include detailed recommendations for policy changes in China that together will put an end to the growing crisis in China's skies.
1. There must be clear, progressive and absolute limits on coal consumption that are placed on entire regions – a coal cap, to effectively restrain the rapid growth of coal consumption.
2. Severe regional pollution cannot be tackled as fragmented cities. Cities in the Beijing region, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta should formulate legally binding and regional coordinated plans to ensure air quality and propose clear timelines to reach national air quality standards, especially on PM2.5.
3. These regions should also introduce effective policy instruments to curb the rapid growth of the number of vehicles on the roads.
4. A hike in pollution discharging charges and strengthened supervision efforts could help make illegal discharges unaffordable.
5. Local governments should actively advocate eco-friendly lifestyles, and welcome public participation in improving urban air quality.
6. De-NOx retrofit for existing coal-fired power plants.
7. Shutdown inefficient coal-fired industrial boilers.
Image: Saihanba Wind Farm in Inner Mongolia © Simon Lim / Greenpeace
To read about these recommendations in more detail, download our two reports:
1. Dangerous Breathing
2. Ranking Eastern Chinese cities by their "clean air" actions