Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is China Doing about Urban Air Pollution?

China’s clean air challenge: The health impacts of transport emissions (Su Song, The City Fix, Nov. 20, 2014)

Also discussed here: In Step to Lower Carbon Emissions, China Will Place a Limit on Coal Use in 2020 (Edward Wong, New York Times, Nov. 20, 2014)

Today we review plans by the Chinese government to both monitor and reduce the extremely high levels of air pollution found in its largest cities, a large portion of which is due to vehicle emissions. Plans have been approved to achieve particulate emissions by as much as 25% by 2017 by monitoring emissions and using technology to regulate them and by managing transport demand using congestion pricing and other economic tools. Equally impressive plans are in place to cap carbon emissions from coal by 2020. Credit must be given to governments that recognize the impact of unrestricted deterioration of urban air quality on health and then proceed to establish short and longer term targets to improve this. When will Canadian and American governments (and City Councils) do likewise for their cities or do we wait until conditions get as bad as in China?


Key Quotes:

“only 4.1% of the 74 surveyed cities met the new standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. … more than one billion Chinese people exposed to air quality considered unsafe for more than half of the year with a concentration 26 times above the WHO standard for safe exposure at 671μg/m3. “

 “Motor vehicles are estimated to emit about 15-35% of local PM2.5 in Chinese cities…Vehicle emissions also account for 58% of the nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 40% of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in Beijing – both of which can have serious negative health effects.”

“In a congested area where vehicles frequently stop and go, tailpipe emissions can be three times higher than when driving is smooth. For example, on Beijing’s west second ring road, PM2.5 levels are 25-30μg/m3 when traffic is moving freely compared to 90-100μg/m3 during peak congestion.”

 “Various policy instruments can address these challenges:
  • Emissions monitoring and evaluation.
  • Transport demand management (TDM). Various economic instruments like parking management and congestion pricing, together with regulatory instruments such as traffic and vehicle ownership restriction..
  • Technologies and standards. .. stricter emission standards for all kinds of vehicles, especially for vehicles with diesel engines…”
Transit-oriented development (TOD) and public transport. ..Evidence shows that eliminating one car when a household shifts to public transport reduces the household’s emissions by up to 30%. …the indirect “leverage effect” of higher density around transit hubs can amplify the direct emissions reductions from public transit by 200 to 300%.”

 “2017 is the deadline to achieve targets from the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, which calls for PM2.5 reduction of 25%, 20%, and 15% for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta regions”

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