Report Reveals China’s Key to Cleaner Air and Economic Growth

Clean Air Asia’s “Breakthroughs China’s Path to Clean Air 2013-2017” report found that China’s air pollution control policies had achieved large-scale air quality improvements in more than 300 Chinese cities in the past five years while its economy continued to steadily grow.

The report – released at the 10th Better Air Quality Conference in Kuching, Malaysia, on November 15, 2018 – summarizes and analyzes the major air pollution prevention and control measures undertaken by China from 2013 to 2017 when the landmark “Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control”, which maps out the nation’s air pollution prevention and control efforts until 2017, was implemented.

“During the five years of Action Plan implementation, China saw an annual drop in emissions from almost all air pollutants, and overall air quality in Chinese cities significantly improved,” said Clean Air Asia China Director Dr Fu Lu. “In the 74 key cities, the concentration of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, the major pollutant that arouses public concern, witnessed a decline of 34.7%. In the capital city Beijing, annual average PM2.5 concentrations fell from 89.5 μg/m3 in 2013 to 58 μg/m3 in 2017.

The report shows that the targets set out in the Action Plan were successfully met by 2017. The annual average PM2.5 concentrations of 338 cities in China fell to 43 μg/m3, with 130 of them meeting the national standard of 35 μg/m3. The concentrations of SO2, PM10, CO and NO2 decreased by 57.5%, 32.2%, 32.0% and 9.1% respectively. However, ground-level ozone pollution is worsening in China, with the average pollution level in 74 key cities increasing by 20.1% during that period.

Robert O’Keefe, Vice-President of Health Effect Institute (HEI), said, “China’s response to its air pollution problems was strong and promising. It is becoming a national leader in reducing air pollution. Many health benefits accrue from these strong air pollution control measures, including reduced mortality, less cardio-vascular and respiratory disease. ”

“With top leaders’ strong political will in response to the public demand for clean air, China has built an air quality management system that lays the foundation for science-based policy formulation and focuses on strong policy implementation,” Dr Fu Lu said. “The system is driven by a stringent government accountability mechanism, which ensures thorough implementation of the key pollution control measures.”

The report summarizes nine key measures in four major categories, science-based capacity building, key pollution sources control, supporting measures and inter-departmental coordination and cooperation. It shows that China’s efforts and innovations in controlling emissions from coal, high-polluting and energy-intensive industries and vehicles have contributed to a major reduction in air pollution.

“The improvement has happened in parallel with growth in the economy, a growing population and continued urbanization,” said Clean Air Asia Executive Director Bjarne Pedersen. “There is clearly an opportunity for other countries in the region to learn from the experiences of China and Chinese cities. In the face of increasing air pollution in cities across Asia, we need to be able to fast track air quality improvements on a large scale to address the urgent public health crisis resulting from air pollution.”

The full report can be downloaded at

For more information, contact Qiuxia Wang at the Clean Air Asia China office at [email protected].