Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Improved air quality follows a joint effort to reduce coal consumption, reduce transport emissions and relocate heavy industries.

China’s capital, Beijing, met national air quality standards for the first time last year, according to officials, after a joint effort to reduce coal consumption, reduce transportation emissions and relocate heavy industries.

China declared war on pollution in 2014 after a series of dangerous Smoke buildup in Beijing and elsewhere it unleashed widespread public anger.

Officials at Beijing’s Environmental Protection Agency told reporters on Tuesday that average readings of small, dangerous airborne particles known as PM2.5 reached 33 micrograms per cubic meter in the capital over 2021, down 13 percent from a year earlier and meets China’s interim standard of 35 micrograms for the first time on record.

The annual average of 33 micrograms remains much higher than the recommended World Health Organization level of five micrograms.

A policeman wearing a mask to protect against serious pollution is securing the area near the Great Hall of the People ahead of the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, March 3, 2016.A policeman wearing a mask to protect against serious pollution secured the area near the Great Hall of the People ahead of the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, March 3, 2016 [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Yu Jianhua, the deputy head of Beijing’s environmental protection bureau, described the city’s efforts over the past 10 years, as well as the speed of its improvements, as “unprecedented”.

“All regions and all departments have worked together and organized the whole of society to achieve comprehensive improvements in Beijing’s air quality,” he said.

Beijing residents enjoyed nearly four months more clear air last year compared to 2013, he added.

In 2015, Beijing promised to end its performance of the 2022 Winter Olympics to help drive improvements in its environment, with Chinese President Xi Jinping promising to host a “green” Games.

As a measure of the progress made, the average PM2.5 readings stood at 71 micrograms in 2016, but regularly approached 500 micrograms during the winter months, when coal-dominated heating systems were turned on across the region.

Beijing and the surrounding province of Hebei have since made efforts to switch to cleaner natural gas, built extensive wind and solar farms and also planted large numbers of trees across the region.

They also imposed strictly new fuel standards on cars and forced steel mills and other industrial facilities to install equipment aimed at controlling exhaust fumes.

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