Beijing, 21 April 2015 – A Greenpeace East Asia analysis of air pollution data from 360 Chinese cities reveals that air quality in coastal regions and cities such as Beijing has modestly improved in the last 12 months. The analysis is based on an unprecedented government disclosure of air pollution data for the first quarter of 2015, which now shows provinces in China’s central and western regions as having the worst PM2.5 pollution in the country.
“Our analysis shows that the government’s strict pollution control measures are working, at least enough to record a modest improvement on last year in certain cities such as Beijing. However this is the only silver lining in a situation where 90% of cities still record levels of pollution that far exceed China’s own air quality standards,” said Zhang Kai, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
“We welcome the unprecedented transparency with which the government is acting to disclose air pollution data. Armed with this information, the government must now ensure that pollution is not simply relocated to other regions, and that the same strict measures enacted in cities like Beijing are actually enforced across the country.”
While Beijing still ranks in the top five worst polluted provinces in China, the capital’s PM2.5 concentration improved more than 13% compared to the first quarter of 2014, and industry-heavy Hebei province, just outside of Beijing, also improved 31%.
However the overall situation in China is still dire. Data show that 90% of the cities that Greenpeace East Asia ranked are exceeding China’s own limit on yearly average level for particulates (PM2.5) in the air. The provinces of Henan, Hubei, Hunan and Sichuan, all located in either central or western China where strict pollution controls have not been enacted, were among the 10 worst polluted provinces in the first quarter of 2015.
“Despite modest improvements in high profile cities like Beijing, the figures paint a grim picture overall. It is essential for our health and the health of our children that we bring back our clean air. And we believe that best long term solution to achieve that is to transition away from coal and towards clean, renewable energy sources,” said Zhang Kai.
China’s top leaders have issued a “war against pollution” and a national plan to improve air quality in the country in late 2013. Greenpeace now urges the Chinese government to implement a regional coal cap and ensure that PM2.5 control measures and improvement targets are implemented across the whole country. This means establishing PM2.5 targets for China's landlocked provinces and to continue the extensive disclosure of PM2.5 data as a basis for better informed, nationwide policies.