Summary of China Air Quality Management Development in 2014

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Summary of China Air Quality Management Development in 2014

In 2014, ambient air pollution in China is still severe. China Ambient Air Quality Status in the First Half of 2014 released by Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) indicates that: 1) among the 161 cities that have implemented the updated Ambient Air Quality Standard, over 90 percent of cities failed to achieve the annual mean standard; 2) the percentage of air quality attainment days averaged out 60.3%; 3) in nonattainment days, the top 3 pollutants are PM2.5, PM10 and O3; 4)compared with the same period of 2013, the concentrations variation of 3 comparable indictors were: PM10-increase by 4.5%, NO2-increase by 2.6%, SO2-decrease by 7.1%. The overall air quality of 74 key cities has been improved slightly considering that the average percentage of air quality attainment days in these cities has increased compared with the same period of 2013.

The central government continuously releases plans and provides funding support and technical guidance after the National Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control (National Action Plan) was released in 2013. At the State Council Executive Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Li Keqiang in this February, the prevention and control of air pollution was discussed in depth. The Central Government launched the special fund of 10 billion RMB for the prevention and control of air pollution in key regions in 2014. To further strengthen the enforcement and implementation of the National Action Plan, after having signed the target responsibility documents with 31 provinces (regions, cities), MEP announced 22 supporting policy measures, including 6 policies on energy structure adjustment, 10 policies on environmental economy, and 6 management policies. Furthermore, technical guidance documents including Compilation of Advanced Technologies of Air Pollution Prevention and Control and Guidelines for Development of Air Pollution Emission Inventory, have been released, and 2014 Clean Air Research Program has been launched by MEP.

The Environmental Protection Law was amended this year which will be effective on January 1, 2015. New articles are provided for prevention and control of regional air pollution and accumulated punishments on a daily basis with no limit for violators. Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law (draft amendment) was approved at the State Council Executive Meeting in November. The draft law focuses on source control, public engagement, and control of total mass and pollutant concentrations. New articles provide for regional collaboration and co-control of multiple pollutants from coal burning, industry, vehicles and dusts emissions in key regions. The draft attracted great attention in the society and organizations and individuals have provided comments. It is hoped that the two laws will provide legal basis of enforcement of long-term measures issued under the National Action Plan.

At local level, many cities have released local regulations or plans for air pollution prevention and control. In 2014, Beijing government first released the Beijing Municipal Regulations for Air Pollution Prevention and Control, followed by Shanghai, Zhengzhou and Tianjin. Shijiazhuang, Wenzhou, Dongguan, Jiaxing, Taiyuan and several other key cities have also released the plan or scheme for air pollution prevention and control.

The National Action Plan emphasizes regional collaboration, and sets Jing-Jin-Ji, Yangtze River Delta (YRD) and Pearl River Delta (PRD) as the 3 key control regions, of which Jing-Jin-Ji is the top priority. In 2014, according to the Rules for Implementation of National Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control in Jing-Jin-Ji and Surrounding Regions, the governments in the region have strengthened the implementation of coal consumption control, industry structure adjustment and vehicle emissions control. In this July, MEP released Air Pollution Control Plan for Key Industries in Jing-Jin-Ji and Surrounding Regions, which requires that air pollution control of electricity, steel, cement and plate glass industry should be implemented in a limited time to realize 30% total mass reduction of SO2, NOx, and dusts emission compared with 2013 level. In YRD, coordination mechanism was formally launched by 3 provincial governments (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui) and 1 city (Shanghai) government and 8 ministries. After the first and second working meeting held in Shanghai, the Key Suggestions for Air Pollution Prevention and Control in YRD in 2015 was formulated. Currently, air quality forecasting and alerting center in YRD is under construction, which is designed for monitoring data sharing, emission inventory establishment and forecasting and alerting of regional air quality. The construction is planned to be completed in 2-3 years.

As for the policy measure implementation at local level, cities concentrate on the control of coal consumption and vehicle emissions. Regarding the pollution from burning coal in heating season, Northern cities have made plans for controlling the coal consumption in winter. Beijing launched the 2014 Initiative for Reducing Coal Consumption and Cleaning Air in rural areas. Lanzhou, Taiyuan, Shijiazhuang and Changchun focus on replacing or phasing out small coal-burning boilers, and accelerating clean energy heating. As Prime Minister Li Keqiang pointed out that 6 million yellow labelled and old vehicles should be phased out this year when he delivered the Government Work Report this March, MEP and other 5 ministries jointly released the Implementation Plan for Phasing out Yellow Labelled and Old Vehicles, which allocates the task to 31 provinces (regions, cities). By November, 6.11million vehicles have been eliminated.

Since MEP released the Guidance for Strengthening the Management of Emergency Response to Heavy Pollution, over 20 provinces and 200 prefecture-level cities have formulated the plans for emergency response and released the alert for heavy pollution for over 200 times followed by response measures. However, problems still exist that some cities with air quality nonattainment have not made plans yet or some plans are not operational. Faced with the problems, MEP released the Letter of Formulation and Revision of Plans for Emergency Response to Heavy Pollution, which defines new alerting tiers described in colors of blue, yellow, orange and red, and when to start each alerting tier.

MEP has required the monitoring centers nationwide to conduct source apportionment since early 2013 and set clear timetable, especially in Jing-Jin-Ji, Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta. From April to October 2014, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Ji’nan published the city source apportionment results for PM successively. The results all indicate that regional transportation is a contributor. The top 4 primary emission sources within a city are coal burning, vehicles, dusts and industries, each of which accounts for different proportions in 4 cities. According to the MEP arrangement, except Lhasa, the 30 capital cities and 5 key cities with independent planning should complete preliminary research of source apportionment and publish reports within 2014.

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Clean Air Asia was established in 2001 as the premier air quality network for Asia by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and USAID. Its mission is to promote better air quality and livable cities by translating knowledge to policies and actions that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and other sectors.

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