China Air 2016 report finds continued air quality improvements in Chinese cities

China Air 2016 Report Full

Clean Air Asia’s “China Air 2016– Air Pollution Prevention and Control Progress in Chinese Cities” report found that as a result of good implementation of China’s Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control, the air quality of 161 cities in 2015 continued to improve as a whole.

The report, released at the 9th Better Air Quality Conference and the 17th World Clean Air Congress in Busan, South Korea, on September 1, is the second of a series to be produced annually until 2018 by Clean Air Asia’s China Office to objectively monitor the implementation and progress of the national, regional and municipal policies that are enacted under the Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control (the Action Plan), which maps out the nation’s air pollution control and prevention targets and tasks until 2017.

Introducing the report, Clean Air Asia China Director Dr Fu Lu said: “With the adoption of pollution control measures required by the Action Plan in the past three years, 2015 saw a continuous air quality improvement in the 161 cities across China. In the 74 key cities, the annual average concentrations of PM2.5, PM10, SO2and NO2 of the 74 key cities decreased by 14.1 percent, 11.4 percent, 21.9 percent and 7.1 percent on average compared with 2014 levels.”

The report shows that of the 120 data-available cities, 90 percent have reached their PM2.5 or PM10 reduction targets for 2015, and 14 have managed to cut their PM2.5 concentrations by more than 20 percent. The Pearl River Delta is the first key region to attain the National Secondary Standard for PM2.5 (35μg/m3).

“Such tremendous improvement is achieved by strong political will as well as significant policy breakthroughs,” Dr Fu Lu said.

china-table2china-table1

The report found that China had achieved the 2017 coal-consumption control target ahead of schedule with coal use dropping to 64.0 percent of total energy consumption in 2015. The country also began to address other major contributors to dirty air, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pollution by initiating VOCs discharge fees and setting domestic emission-control areas for vessels.

“However, despite the improvement, the air quality in China is far from healthy for breathing,” she said.

According to Clean Air Asia’s analysis, PM2.5 was still the primary problem for most of the cities. The annual mean concentration of PM2.5 in the 74 key cities was at 1.5 times that of the National Secondary Standard in 2015; the number of non-attainment days in the 161 cities covered by the report averaged 99; and in winter, cities still experienced frequent heavy pollution, particularly in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and its surrounding areas.

In addition, ground-level ozone pollution continued to worsen. The annual mean concentration of ozone in the 74 key cities continued to rise at a rate of 3.4 percent, whereas the proportion of cities that attained standards continued to fall at a rate of 5.4 percent.

“We found that local governments have been facing tremendous pressure from the central government to reduce air pollution, but challenges lie in the lack of science-based policymaking, particularly for cities with less developed economies.”

According to the report, admonitory talks between the Ministry of Environmental Protection and cities with bad air pollution control performance doubled in 2015 compared with 2014; however, insufficient capacity building was conducted with local environmental officials.

“There is still a long way to go to achieve clean air in China. Chinese cities have to set long-term strategies and improve their science-based air quality management capacity.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

For further information, contact Qiuxia Wang at the Clean Air Asia China office at +86 186 0021 6077 or qiuxia.wang@cleanairasia.org.