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Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental and health concerns the world faces today. As the amount of cars, factories and large cities so does the amount of air pollution. The effects of this are seen throughout the world but is focused mainly in the large cities that are home to millions and millions of people. For the people living in these areas the effects can be as large and life threatening as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
China is known for its mass production and copious amounts of factories. For decades China has been a central hub for large brands to use to produce their products which has ultimately caused many complications and issues for China and its population. With a rise in factories comes a rise in air pollutant emissions. Throughout the years the Chinese government has taken steps to protect the citizens of China and reduce and try eradicate air pollution which has taken its toll in many ways. Everyday life is affected by pollution which is why it is crucial for the government to do its best. While small steps have been taken to protect its population from the pollution like creating a system that warns the citizens of cities like Beijing and Shanghai when the air quality is dangerous, there have not been enough bigger steps that have been properly maintained to get rid of the air pollution.
The Air Quality Index has been one of the commonly known steps the government has taken to help protect the citizens of China. In 2015, China issued its first red alert for the air quality which means that the air conditions are not suitable for outdoor activities and schools must be closed. Ever since then the Chinese government has been taking larger steps than before to truly sort out the issue before it is too late, which many argue it already is.
The aim of this project is to see a few of the ways the Chinese government has tried to lessen the air pollution issue and comment on which method was most effective and sustainable.
China’s Five Year Plan to Radically Tighten Air Pollution Targets
Qui, Lin. “China’s Five Year Plan to Radically Tighten Air Pollution Targets.” Climate Home News, Climate Home, 11 Mar. 2016, www.climatechangenews.com/2016/03/11/chinas-five-year-plan-to-radically-tighten-air-pollution-targets/.
This article focuses on the 13th Five Year Plan created by the Chinese government which targets the pollution issue as well as a few other issues. The main goal in terms of air pollution is to lower the emissions from factories by 25%. The writer then includes the percentage drop of energy intensity per unit of GDP and the 2020 goal to lower the water intensity per unit of GDP by 23%, energy intensity by 15% and carbon intensity by 18%. Included is a quote from Professor Hu Angang of Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management which says that there will be a switch from talking about industrial places to green development.
There is not much information on Lin Qui besides that she has written for China Dialogue and is a researcher there. The article is fairly recent, March of 2016, but some of the statistics might be out of date and there may be more information, especially on the progress of the plan, that has been released more recently. This article will be quite useful as it highlights changes made and the goals of one policy as opposed to just a few rules that were put in place to work on the issues. It also brings a lot of quotes and useful statistics. A limitation will be that I will need to find the more recent statistics of all the ones given in the article. Source 2
China Commits to Cut Northern Air Pollution by 15 Percent
Stanway, David. “China Commits to Cut Northern Air Pollution by 15 Percent.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 Aug. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-china-pollution/china-commits-to-cut-northern-air-pollution-by-15-percent-idUSKCN1B40CM.
This article is about China’s goal to cut air pollution by 15% every year during the winter months. This plan was published in a 143 page plan by the Ministry of Environmental Protection which will be effective in 28 cities in northern China where air pollution is at its worst. Also discussed is the rise and fall of pollution, smog and PM2.5 levels. In January and February of 2017 there was a near record breaking level of smog so the PM2.5 levels were at an all time high throughout the beginning of the year. The writer includes quotes from the project manager at the Clean Air Alliance of China which highlights the positive effect of the governments actions over the past 5 years.
David Stanway, the writer of this article, writes primarily about China and its political, economic and environmental issues. He has many articles on air pollution in China and the country’s efforts to fix it. It is a reliable article as it was published in August of 2017. There are many statistics used in the article that show the actions conducted against air pollution. This is helpful for my research as it provides useful information such as statistics and how China is working towards a clearer future by 2020. The article also has suggestions on how to further fix the issue which is helpful and can lead to more investigations further on. A limitation could be its length, it is quite short and does not go into detail.
China’s Surprising Solutions to Clear Killer Air
Gardiner, Beth. “China’s Surprising Solutions to Clear Killer Air.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 17 Oct. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/05/china-air-pollution-solutions-environment-tangshan/.
Beth Gardiner writes in heavy detail how the air pollution is affecting life in China and the many ways in which people and government officials have tried to correct the manmade issue. Focusing on Tangshan, the countries factory hub, the writer talks in depth about how the pollution issue arose and how it stayed. Gardiner emphasises that Tangshan’s emission of greenhouse gases affect not only China but the whole world so if the city can reduce their emissions, the whole world will benefit. She calls this the ‘time of reckoning’ and states that it is more important now than ever to work of the issue. She also brings forth the government’s lack of transparency on the issue.
Beth Gardiner is a freelance journalist working for many companies. She has a book coming out about air pollution which shows that she is aware of the situation and knows a lot about the efforts made to fix it. As this article was published in May of 2017 it is still very relevant and has accurate, current statistics. A lot of the research conducted was based on firsthand experience as Beth Gardiner went to Tangshan to write this article. The information provided is helpful and will help provide a steady idea of the issue. It is lengthy and information is at an abundance. What is also helpful is that it is written from experience as opposed to facts read online so it creates a more personal account of the issue. A limitation with this article is it focuses mainly on Tangshan and not on many other Chinese cities and is written more like a story than a factual piece, despite having many facts and statistics. Source 4
From Coal to Cars: Beijing Moves Up a Gear in War Against Air
Pinghui, Zhuang. “From Coal to Cars: Beijing Moves up a Gear in War against Air Pollution.” South China Morning Post, 4 Feb. 2018, www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2131862/coal-cars-beijing-moves-gear-war-against-air-pollution.
This article focuses mainly on car emissions and the use of coal in the main industrial cities in China, specifically Beijing. The first half talks primarily about the coal issue and the second half tackles the car issue. In the first half, it is stated that the SO2 emissions from burning coal had dropped drastically between 2012 and 2017. Another comparison is the amount of “good air days” Beijing had in 2017, 226, which is 50 more than in 2013, as well 23 less days of serious and hazardous air conditions. Then the article talks about solutions such as making the switch between coal and natural gas, the increased use of electric cars, and banning high emission vehicles in the city as opposed to just within the sixth ring road.
Zhuang Pinghui is a Chinese writer based in Beijing and she has been writing for the South China Morning Post for 14 years. This shows she is fully aware of many of the issues in China including the air pollution issue. This article is very relevant as it was posted in February of 2018. Pinghui uses many statistics to bring her point across and highlight the changes in PM2.5 levels, these numbers will be very useful during my research. There are many external links to related articles which helps the reader if they would like to get a more well rounded idea of specific things mentioned in the article. The main limit is it is focused on Beijing only and not the rest of the northern cities that are apart of the issue.
Getting rid of something that has built up over many decades is a monumental task, even for a country known for its efficiency such as China. Residents of the more polluted cities have taken matters into their own hands by using bicycles as a common form of transportation and by using air filtration systems in the homes. This helps their standard of living significantly but still does not attack the core of the problem. The government stepped in and started creating new laws and taking action to truly help fix the issue.
The Chinese government is known for creating ‘five year plans’ which work to protect, fix and aid in bettering the country and its economic development. Understandably they created a five year plan which includes a section to fix the air pollution from 2016 to 2021. This is the 13th of their five year plans. The plan includes many plans of action, including reducing factory emissions of PM2.5, a harmful particulate matter, by 25%. This is a step towards environmental development and its partnership with economic development. Along with reducing the PM2.5 emissions, the other targets in the environmental section are the reduction of emissions from factories, use coal more efficiently, use more natural sources of electricity, use of clean energies and implement controls to deal with air pollution. Since the plan was introduced 2016, pollutant emissions have dropped by 12%.
“Achieving green growth means reducing energy and resource intensity and decoupling the emissions of key pollutants from economic growth and urbanisation”- Professor Hu Angang, Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management
By creating a large plan with many tasks to control air pollution has ultimately worked in favour for the Chinese government. Only two years into the plan and they are already nearly half way to the end goal of a 25% reduction. However the main focus is in Beijing, where the air quality is one of the worst in the country. This is an issue as the air pollution issue is countrywide and not just in the few major cities of China. Still this could have a knock-on effect which helps the smaller areas and creates the platform for more change.
Creating a large air filter in the middle of a city to counteract the air pollution and smog sounds like a child-like scheme however it is real and happening in Xian, in the Shaanxi province in northern
Concept plan for air purifier China. The 100 metre tall structure works by using large glasshouses around the base that pull the polluted air in which is heated by solar power. This hot air rises through the structure which contains many different filters. The air is then released through the top of the structure. Although its effects have only truly been noticed within a 10 square kilometre area around the structure the results are promising. It uses barely any electricity during the day time so it is more effective than its predecessor which was a 7 metre tall art installation at Beijing’s art district 798, created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, which ran entirely on electricity produced by coal power plants.
The large air purifier had promising results but it is unrealistic to build so many in the centre of larger cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Cao Junji, the head of research at the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has plans to build one five times the size. The glasshouse would be almost 30 square kilometres and will hopefully be able to clean a small city’s air. Even though it does have good results and bigger plans. it does not get rid of the air pollution issue, it just creates a short term solution. To truly work to fix and eradicate the issue the solution must start at the core of the problem, such as the factories, and not only clean the air.
One of the more effective things the government has done is implement limits and laws for certain things such as cars with certain number plates cannot drive on certain days. This is effective as it works from the core of the issue which is the massive amounts of air pollutants released by cars, factories and power plants and helps reduce the pollutant emissions. The government worked in 2017 to reduce excess supply of steel and coal by reducing the steel capacity by 50 millions tons and coal output by 150 million tons. By reducing this excess, less power will be used as well as less pollution created by factories producing steel and coal. The limits on cars helps by reducing the number of cars on the road. This small change puts a small stop to the levels of emissions from the high number of cars which has a very large effect.
“We will make our skies blue again.”- Premier Li Keqiang
In the past, the government changed the prices of coal and steel in attempt to reduce production however it was not as effective as putting a cap on production to reduce waste and excess, producing only what is necessary. While this does aid in reducing pollution emissions, it will take years, approximately 10, to reduce them to a point where the air is near clear and breathable nearly year round. In order for this, the steel, coal and car limits will need to stay in place, maybe be made tighter, until and even after that goal is achieved. However this is a good start.
In conclusion, the Chinese government has taken many steps to ensure a cleaner, safer future for its population and for the rest of the world effectively. Some of these steps have been more helpful than others but they have all worked in tandem and will hopefully continue working for many years until the air pollution issue is eradicated.
The most effective method is possibly the five year plan as it takes all the issues and creators of the pollution problem into consideration and works to solve most, if not all, of them and create an easy yet effective solution to the issue. It promises large improvements in a short time that will hopefully be everlasting and in only two years since the plan was implemented there has been a large change. With three more years left to go there can and surely will be a continuation in these results and an large improvement in air quality for China. With that starts the domino effect worldwide as other countries facing similar issues will follow suit. That will contribute to the betterment of the environment and help reduce the effects of global warming. A clear future for China and the world might be closer than we think.
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