Beijing, 20 January 2016 – Greenpeace East Asia’s 2015 annual city rankings show that average PM2.5 concentration in 189 cities around China fell by 10% compared to 2014 levels. However, 80% of a set of 366 cities in China still fail to meet the national standard on air quality. Moreover, the smog experienced by Beijing and other cities across northern China this winter is a reminder of the steps which must be taken to clean China’s skies. With the announcement of the 13th Five Year Plan, China’s long-term policy blueprint, just around the corner in March, now is an opportune moment for the government to take decisive action on air pollution via a nationwide cap on the consumption of coal, China’s number one source of air pollutants.

“Despite Beijing’s choking winter of red alerts, data from 2015 clearly shows a continued positive trend in Beijing and across the country. However, air quality across China is still a major health hazard”, said climate and energy campaigner Dong Liansai.

Greenpeace’s findings show that Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen all saw decreases in annual average PM2.5 concentrations in 2015, while Shanghai saw a slight increase of 3.14%. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region saw average annual PM2.5 levels fall to 77.1µg /m3, down from 92.6µg /m3 in 2014 and already approaching its 2017 target of 73µg/m3, set by the NDRC in December.

However, Q4 data for Beijing and other areas of northern China show that this winter experienced significantly higher levels of PM2.5 concentration than in 2013 and 2014. Baoding in Hebei province saw a total of 35 days of heavy pollution, while Beijing saw 26 such days. Greenpeace East Asia research shows that the principal reason for this higher frequency of smog in Beijing and surrounding areas this winter was wind and humidity conditions. Though weather conditions help smog develop, the origin of the pollution remains heavy coal burning across northern China.

“With the WHO calling air pollution a ‘global public health emergency’,[1] China’s regular ‘airpocalypses’ and Beijing’s red alerts in December are a stark reminder of what needs to be done: control coal consumption. The upcoming five year plan offers a golden opportunity to put another nail in the coffin of king coal,” said Dong Liansai.

Greenpeace East Asia calls on the Chinese government to implement a national coal consumption cap in the upcoming 13th Five Year Plan, due to be agreed on this March. Moreover, PM2.5 targets in the three key regions of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta should be re-addressed based on performance shown in the mid-term review of the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, and ambition increased accordingly. Regional PM2.5 targets should also be expanded to other regions.

Notes to editor:

See Greenpeace 2015 City Rankings media briefing here

Media contact:

Tom Baxter,

International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia,

email: [email protected]

phone: +86 188 1134 4861

 Greenpeace International Press Desk

email: [email protected],

phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470  (available 24 hours)