Big Cities in China Win the War Against Air Pollution

China is finally breathing with relief as big cities managed to win the war against air pollution. The levels of pollution dramatically decrease in the capital region Beijing. The concentration of PM2.5 has dropped by 33% in Beijing and other 27 surrounding cities. The new report that Greenpeace East Asia has developed was published today, on January 11th.

The levels of air pollution in Beijing have dropped by 54%. This decrease has appeared after government policies determined millions of businesses and homes to use cleaner-burning natural gas instead of coal. China is finally able to see the blue skies after the great majority switched to natural gas. Hence, the population has contributed to the reduction of fuel. Factories were shut, and homes were left frigid.

Serious reduction of air pollution in China

Nevertheless, this represents a great victory for President Xi Jinping. He argues that he will continue to impose the anti-coal solutions. The analysts from Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. have developed the report which was published today. Neil Beveridge in Hong Kong is one of the specialists who argues that this drastic change has lead to good results.

Giving up coal and choosing natural gas instead proved to have a great impact on the quality of the air in Beijing and numerous other big cities in China. Even if they have met a lot of challenges and problems when implementing this solution, the results pay off. Using gas instead of coal for industrial and residential use only represents one from a series of measures meant to clean smoggy cities.

Policymakers have also decided to close illegal or outdated aluminum smelters, coal mines, and steel mills. The demand for natural gas has increased by 19% in October 2017. Furthermore, specialists predict an increase of 15% this year. Beijing will continue to develop the gas infrastructure while using the anti-coal solutions.

In November and December, the shift toward natural gas as a heating fuel seemed problematic. Some areas in the country did not have a sufficient supply of natural gas. The region ran short of gas, and this situation forced the government to allow factories to function. In this way, the country was able to prioritize the gas supplies for residential users while others continued to burn coal.

What the experts say

Jiang Kejun is a researcher at the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission. He argues that the transition from coal to gas determined only small negative effects. Hence, this became worthwhile for the whole country, expanding the use of gas. Furthermore, they have also started the construction of a nuclear power plant.

Back in December, the NDRC indicates that a winter-heating for the northern areas of the country might cut down on coal use 150 million metric tons by 2021. The Chinese population will replace the use of coal with the use of geothermal power, direct electric heating, heat pumps, biomass and natural gas.

Lauri Myllyvirta is an energy analyst at Greenpeace in Beijing. She says that favorable weather conditions and measures to diminish industrial emissions contributed to the reduction of pollution levels. The organization Greenpeace indicates that the air-quality nationwide has improved, registering a 4.5% decrease in PM2.5 levels in 2017.

Tian Miao is a Beijing-based energy specialist at Everbright Sun Hung Kai Co. He argues that the winter in 2018 might be even ‘greener’ and cleaner. The government intends to continue with its campaign, changing from coal to gas.

A Chinese man wearing a mask

Now, Chinese residents do not need to wear masks anymore because the levels of air pollution have decreased.

Did China win the war against air pollution?

We know that Beijing has as a symbol of modern life the pollution mask. However, this winter, that mask is no longer in trend. Chinese residents were able to see the clear and blue skies. The President Xi Jinping argues that this is a battle they have won against air pollution. The residents gave up on wearing masks and now wear smiles on their faces when they are finally able to breath clean air.

The five-year action plan on air pollution in China had the deadline December 2017. Therefore, they have achieved to diminish the amount of particulate matter into the atmosphere by 33% across 74 cities. Huang Wei is a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. He argues that the government should take care of the second stage of this plan. They will need to make it at least as ambitious as the first one.

Furthermore, the government should also consider including certain targets for the reduction of ozone. When the levels of pollution were extremely dangerous, residents wore slate-gray, blue or red masks, depending on the level of air contamination. The smog covered numerous cities, triggering an orange alert in Tianjin and other cities in Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi, and Henan.

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Effects on human health

Many residents were scared for their lives since they knew that the dangerous chemicals in the are and the PM2.5 levels could impair their health. Smog and air pollution pose a great threat, especially for children and seniors. More and more people were dying due to air-pollution causes. Thousands of residents suffered from respiratory diseases.

The respiratory problems could easily lead to lung issues and other severe heart problems. Even if residents have tried to stay healthy, by exercising, they would have suffered even more. Studies have shown that going for a run in a polluted city like Beijing would severely damage a person’s state of health. When running, people would breathe in more particulate matter. These particles pose a massive threat to human health, affecting their lungs. The study revealed that the air was so polluted and full of chemicals that not even a run in the park was healthy.

Summing up

After wearing numerous types of masks to avoid the impact of air pollution, Chinese residents are able to breathe in fresh air. China appears to have won the war against air pollution. The levels of greenhouse gas emissions have diminished due to the government’s practice. The Chinese government imposed residents and plants to switch from the use of coal to the use of gas. Now, they are able to admire blue skies and lose the masks.

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William E. Eubanks
 

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