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Prevention and Control of Air Pollution in China

State Environmental Protection Administration

August 3, 2006

I. Overall Air Quality in China

 Compared with the year 2000, 22.2 percent more cities of the country had air quality meeting Grade II National Standard, and those with air quality worse than Grade III standard dropped by 24.1 percent in 2005.

Of the 522 cities under national monitoring program in 2005, 319 were at or above prefecture level, and another 203 at county level. 22 of them enjoyed Grade I air quality, accounting for 4.2 percent; 293 met Grade II standard, taking up 56.1 percent; 152 met Grade III standard, accounting for 29.1 percent; and 55 failed to meet Grade III standard, taking up 10.6 percent. The major pollutant was inhalable particulates. Compared with the previous year and among the comparable cities, those with air quality at or better than Grade II national standard increased by 12.6 percentage points, and those failing to meet Grade III standard declined by 9.9 percentage points. Therefore, the urban air quality witnessed certain improvements.

In 2005, 357 out of the 696 cities (or counties) under national acid rain monitoring program experienced acid rain, accounting for 51.3 percent of the total. Among others, Xiangshan County and Anji County of Zhejiang Province, Shaowu City of Fujian Province, and Ruijin City of Jiangxi Province suffered from 100 percent of acid rain occurrences. In national acid rain control areas, the scope of acid rain pollution was basically stable, while the pollution degree increased to some extent.

II. Emissions of Major Air Pollutants in the Country

Coal accounts for 70 percent of China's energy consumption. This fact is hard to change in a short term. In terms of the coal use method, 80 percent of the coal was for direct combustion. Among others, coal-fired power plants burn 50 percent of the total coal in China. Coal burning is the major source of ambient SO2, NOx, and soot.

During the Tenth Five-Year Plan period, China's coal consumption experienced an increase by more than 800 million tons, over 500 million tons of which went to thermal power industry. The year 2005 saw total emissions of SO2 at a high of 25.49 million tons and up by 27 percent compared with that of 2000. The findings of relevant studies have shown that about 20,000 yuan of economic losses occurred with every ton of SO2 emission, and air pollution, especially acid rain has significantly constrained the efforts in achieving the goal of building a Xiaokang Society in an all-round way.

In 2005, SO2 emission totaled at 25.493 million tons, including 21.684 million tons from industrial sources and 3.809 million tons from domestic sources; the soot emission reached 11.825 million tons, with industrial contribution of 9.489 million tons and domestic share of 2.336 million tons; the emission of industrial dust amounted to 9.112 million tons.

III. Prevention and Control of Air Pollution in China

1. The desulfurization work has been carried out in thermal power plants of China in an all round way. The end of 2000 had seen only about 5 million kW of the installed capacity of desulfurization facilities putting into operation, constituting 2 percent of the total installed capacity of thermal power plants. By the end of 2005, however, there had been 142 desulfurization projects, either completed or under construction, in major in-service thermal power plants as stated in the Tenth Five-Year Plan for the Two Controlled Zones, and 96.6 percent of those projects had been started with a total installed capacity of approximately 50 million kW. The installed capacity of established desulfurization units nationwide had amounted to more than 76 million kW (including 30 million kW of Circulating Fluidized Bed Boiler-CFBB), accounting for 20 percent of the total installed capacity of thermal power plants with desulfurization capacity up to over 2 million tons. The capacity of desulfurization facilities that were under construction (including the contractual capacity of the facilities yet to be started) had exceeded 200 million kW with potential desulfurization capacity of 8 million tons/year. The desulfurization work during the Tenth Five-Year Plan period had significantly surpassed the target set in The Tenth Five-Year Plan for Environmental Protection in Electric Power Industry, stating that the installed capacity of desulfurization facilities shall reach 15 million kW and 16 million kW under construction.

2. The prevention and control of pollution caused by vehicle emissions has been under standardized regulation. State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has further enhanced its supervision and regulation on new vehicles, in-service vehicles as well as vehicle fuels, and released 15 groups of vehicle types that meet national environmental protection standards in 2005. National Phase II Motor Vehicle Emission Standards was put into effect from July 1, 2005 in China, and the examination and approval work for various vehicles (engines) that comply with National Phase I Motor Vehicle Emission Standards was ceased. Meanwhile, SEPA took active measures to promote low-sulfur fuels in China so as to ensure smooth implementation of National Phase III Motor Vehicle Emission Standards nationwide. In the end of December 2005, Beijing took the lead in enforcing the National Phase III Motor Vehicle Emission Standards as approved by the State Council.

3. The prevention and control of air pollution in Beijing has yielded remarkable results. Beijing is implementing its 12th-stage air pollution prevention and control measures. In 2005, Beijing continued to strengthen the control of pollution caused by coal combustion, finished the transformation of 249 coal-burning boilers (with capacity less than 20 tons) with the application of clean energy, and carried out desulfurization treatment to 81 coal-burning boilers (with the capacity more than 20 tons) from 27 units. Beijing has gradually upgraded its vehicle emission standards, and began to supply fuels complying with National Phase III Motor Vehicle Emission Standards from July 1, 2005. It has enhanced the regulation of in-service vehicles, renewed or phased out 28,000 outdated taxies and more than 3,900 old diesel-powered buses. All the renewed vehicles met National Phase III Motor Vehicle Emission Standards. Beijing authority has intensified the regulation and supervision of a variety of construction sites, strengthened the control of industrial pollution, and commenced the efforts in relocating Shougang Group and stopped the operation of Beijing Chemical Works. Thanks to a series of measures fighting air pollution, Beijing has met the target of 63 percent of the days in 2005 meeting or better than Grade II national air quality standards.

4. The proportion of clean energy has been raised to some extent. The urban energy structure of China has experienced some improvements. More than 20,000 boilers, large kitchen stoves and residential cooking stoves in nine cities, including Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing, have utilized gas now instead of coal, and the consumption of natural gas was up by nearly one fold. The proportion of coal in the energy structure had dropped from 72 percent in 2000 to 66 percent in 2004. Accordingly, the above cities saw significant improvement in ambient air quality. For example, the concentration of inhalable particulates was down by 10 percent - 30 percent and the days with good air quality in 2004 increased by 10 to 40 percentage points compared with that of 2000.

5. More efforts are devoted to treating industrial pollution. A number of outdated enterprises with heavy air pollution were closed down through the adjustment of industrial structure. Take the streamlining of calcium carbide, ferroalloy, and coke industries in the bordering area of Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia as an example, 185 enterprises not complying with industrial policies were either banned or closed down in 2005, and 1.43 billion yuan was invested in dust removal and collection of 933 enterprises in compliance with industrial policies. For the time being, 369 enterprises were permitted to operate after check and acceptance, accounting for 39 percent; 264 were ordered to stop operation for correction, taking up 28.3 percent; and about 300 enterprises were under natural production collapse due to market factors, constituting 32.7 percent. The fact that those enterprises were either closed down or stopped production has significantly contributed to the improvement of regional ambient air quality.

IV. Air Pollution Control Measures in the Near Future

1. To meet the target of controlling the total SO2 emission under the 11th Five-Year Plan.

The Outline of the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development clearly states 10 percent reduction of total SO2 emissions by 2010 as compared with the end of the Tenth Five-Year Plan period, and the estimated total SO2 emission must be under 22.95 million tons. This is a compulsory target. In order to achieve this target, we shall do well the following tasks. First, we will seriously develop the 11th Five-Year Plan for Prevention and Control of SO2 and Acid Rain Pollution and try our best to make it public this year after approval. Second, we will further put into effect the requirements of the target responsibility system. As entrusted by the State Council, SEPA has signed target-responsibility documents on the control of total SO2 emissions with six largest electric power group corporations of China, which emit more than 60 percent of SO2 and assume 75 percent of emissions reduction target, as well as with the seven provinces being key SO2 emission contributors. The next move is to sign government responsibility documents with the rest 23 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. SEPA will release the performance progress of all provinces and the six electric power group corporations every six months, report to the State Council on the assessment results and make them to the public. Third, SEPA will conduct pilot projects on paid acquirements of SO2 emission right and emission trading, and achieve the best emission reduction effects at the minimum treatment cost by making full use of market mechanism in allocating resources. Fourth, SEPA will intensify the supervision and management on desulfurization facilities in thermal power plants. At present, desulfurization work is under rapid development. We shall enhance the supervision and management of companies engaged in desulfurization projects, carry out whole-process monitoring on the construction projects, do well the check and acceptance work, and strengthen the supervision and regulation of desulfurization facilities already put into operation, so as to ensure normal and stable operation of those facilities.

2. To enhance the prevention and control of industrial pollution

We will, by seizing the favorable opportunity of cutting down overcapacity, rigorously implement The Notice of the State Council on Facilitating the Restructuring of Industries with Overcapacity, raise the access conditions for environmental protection, release public notice on the name of enterprises meeting the target, and forcefully phase out outdated production process, technology, equipment and products that waste resources and cause heavy pollution.

3. To control pollution caused by motor vehicle emissions strictly.

We will develop and improve the laws, regulations and standards on the prevention and control of pollution caused by vehicle emissions, gradually upgrade the emission standards of new vehicles, make more efforts in phasing out old and outdated vehicles, and resolutely control the increasing trend of total amount of vehicle emissions year by year.

4. To make in-depth efforts in comprehensive prevention and control of urban air pollution

Firstly, we will improve energy structure and treat non-point pollution. Secondly, we will intensify the prevention and control of secondary dust in cities. Thirdly, we will improve the calculation method for urban environmental capacity in order to provide a scientific basis for the control of urban atmospheric environment. Fourthly, we will carry out the ambient air quality releasing system, issue relevant information on the assessment of urban air quality on a regular basis, and release timely information about pollution accidents if any.

(China Development Gateway August 3, 2006)

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