Over the last decade, air pollution in the North of China has attracted the attention of the mass-media around the world. People have seen pictures of children wearing masks while walking surrounded by gray atmosphere and watched videos of buildings which tops where hidden by pollution. However, it is undeniable that efforts have been made by this country to tackle this issue and to meet the European standards for air quality.
Several national plans such as the “Air Pollution Action Plan” – which expired at the end of 2017 – and the latest called “2018-2020 Three-year Action Plan for winning the Blue Sky War”, have been embraced by the Chinese government to fight this battle. Although the effectiveness of such plans has been partially proven, there are still some expedients which may be useful or may be adopted in order to win this war once and for all.
This essay will discuss two of the main factors which have been contributing to the polluting of the environment: gas emitted by vehicles and those emitted by the bursting of coal. For each of these, past plans, their effectiveness and other possible options will be respectively analysed. During the 80s, Beijing was often regarded as the “Kingdom of Bicycle”; more than three quarter of its roads were indeed used mostly by bikes, which accounted for 220 million in 1988, whereas the number of cars around the entire China during the same year was barely 4,6 million.
However, in 1994 the Chinese government started to promote the manufacturing of cars which ended up in a total switch. In fact, from the beginning of the new millennium, the number of vehicle ownership rocketed, reaching 185,72 million in 2016, which coincided though with a dramatical decrease of bicycles (Thomas, 2018). Nowadays, the emissions of gas caused by vehicles is one of the main causes of air pollution in the north of China. However, at the beginning of 2013, along with the raising in global awareness that the situation needed to change, the Chinese government set a plan to shift to ultra low sulfur fuel in order to meet the global tailpipe emission standard. According to this plan, the first step was upgrading the quality of fuel to a maximum sulfur content of 10 ppm.
Secondly, it urged the companies “to guarantee the supply of ultra-low sulfur fuels by the deadlines” and promised “fiscal incentives or fuel pricing policies […] to compensate for the increased costs of cleaning up the fuels”. Eventually it suggested an improvement in super-visioning the fuel quality, introducing penalties for the companies which did not respect these regulations (International Council on Clean Transportation, 2013).