China Reduces Major Air Pollution By 60-72% From 2014 to 2017

China started a war on air pollution and they are making progress.

The team found that between 2014 and 2017, China’s annual power plant emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter dropped by 65%, 60% and 72% each year respectively from 2.21, 3.11 and 0.52 million tonnes in 2014 to 0.77, 1.26 and 0.14 million tonnes in 2017, under the ultra-low emissions (ULE) standards policy.

The study shows that previous methods of estimating Chinese power emissions overestimated numbers by at least 18%, and in some cases up to 92%. This is because previous research was carried out using ex-ante studies – estimations made ahead of the introduction of ULE standards – which looked at how the standards might affect emissions based on assumptions of changes in emission concentrations.

Coal plants and coal plant operators were given enough financial incentives to comply with the new standards. Old and inefficient coal plants were shut down. New, cleaner designs were built and existing plants were renovated. The smaller units that didn’t contribute much capacity but did contribute a lot of emissions were shut down.

The research is the first to use data on emission concentrations collected by China’s Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems network (CEMS) which covers 96-98% of Chinese thermal power capacity.

In 2014, China introduced an ultra-low emissions (ULE) standards policy for renovating coal-fired power-generating units to limit SO2, NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions to 35, 50 and 10 mg m−3, respectively. The ULE standard policy had ambitious levels and implementation timeline. Researchers estimate emission reductions associated with the ULE policy by constructing a nationwide, unit-level, hourly-frequency emissions dataset using data from a continuous emissions monitoring systems network covering 96–98% of units.

Nature Energy – Substantial emission reductions from Chinese power plants after the introduction of ultra-low emissions standards

Saving Lives With Improved Air Quality but Gains are Offset by More Vulnerable Aging Population

Air-quality-improving targets are substantial, and could reduce the number of PM2.5-related premature deaths in China by approximately 129 278 by 2020 and 217 988 by 2030, compared with 2010. However, since China’s population is increasing and ageing, the number of PM2.5-related premature deaths was estimated to increase by 84 102 by 2020 and by 244 191 by 2030, indicating that the health benefits induced by air quality improvements could be offset by the effect of the population increasing in size and aging. The analysis is from a 2019 article in the Lancet.

To reduce the future disease burden in China, targets that are stricter than the interim target and stringent policies to improve air quality and protect public health are needed, especially for at-risk population groups, such as older individuals (aged over 55 years) and patients with cardiovascular diseases, particularly in regions with a high disease burden.

Estimated number of premature deaths associated with PM2.5 in 2010, 2020, and 2030 according to the
(A) 100% improvement scenarios,
(B) 50% improvement scenarios, and
(C) unchanged scenarios.

22 thoughts on “China Reduces Major Air Pollution By 60-72% From 2014 to 2017”

  1. Its Chinese government Statistics, more wishful thinking than reality. I do think pollution has gone down but no where as much as they are saying. You will be able to see for yourself during the summer in Beijing if you see all the people walking around without masks.

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  2. The “per year” part was wrong – that’s the 2014 to 2017 drop, as calculated from the numbers they provided right after those percentages.

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  3. https://ig.ft.com/china-pollution/

    Heres a very good financial times article on NOx pollution in China, showing monthly NOx concentrations between 2005 to 2018. It explains the seasonality of ambient NOx concentration (much more coal burned in winter) and the fact that the spikes in 2011-2014 were due to sharply ramped up economic activity. I can’t look at those graphs and see a 90% or a 70% reduction in ambient NOx concentrations over a long period of time.

    I’m sure these tightening regulations will lead to considerable air quality improvements over time. But the rates show in the OP article are laughable.

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  4. I hope there is some truth to this. Last time I was in Nanjing (about ten years ago) it was like walking around in a gray soup.

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  5. you know there’s an easy way to test these claims. given the particulate matter and pollutants in the atmosphere can be measured via satellite, all you need to do the independently verify it is to have access to a good air quality database.

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  6. In a city in China, a lot of your outdoor air pollution is the motor vehicles, so the low hanging fruit for coal plant emissions is already picked I’d wager. Cars and industrial plants (especially ones that use coal, like smelting) probably have better cost/benefit comparisons at this point.

    China’s total vehicle fleet reached 310 million last year, and cars were responsible for about 45 percent of air pollution in the capital, Beijing, and nearly 30 percent in Shanghai, according to figures from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment earlier this year.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-pollution-autos/china-to-set-up-recall-system-for-polluting-cars-idUSKCN1N50FQ

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  7. Right. If you do the math 1 -(0.14/0.52) it looks like a 72% reduction TOTAL in just coal PM emissions. Not per year. Which is very doable by just using equipment on your coal plants that has been used in the USA since the 1990s.

    The team found that between 2014 and 2017, China’s annual power plant emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter dropped by 65%, 60% and 72% each year respectively from 2.21, 3.11 and 0.52 million tonnes in 2014 to 0.77, 1.26 and 0.14 million tonnes in 2017, under the ultra-low emissions (ULE) standards policy.

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  8. “The study shows that previous methods of estimating Chinese power emissions overestimated numbers by at least 18%, and in some cases up to 92%. This is because previous research was carried out using ex-ante studies – estimations made ahead of the introduction of ULE standards – which looked at how the standards might affect emissions based on assumptions of changes in emission concentrations.
    The research is the first to use data on emission concentrations collected by China’s Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems network (CEMS) which covers 96-98% of Chinese thermal power capacity.”

    So they changed how they measured air pollution, not that they necessarily reduced air pollution. Now that they have realistic baseline and monitoring system, they can track the actual changes of air pollution.

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  9. As a career environmental engineer, I’m calling BS on these numbers. A 60% reduction in NOx each year for three years is a 93.6% overall reduction . . . in three years. It would be an epic accomplishment to reach these numbers over 30-40 years.

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  10. As a passive political dissident of most countries I am more concerned with the organ harvesting of their local dissidents, personally. I do think most mammals share quite a bit of the sentient and occasionally sapient states of consciousness and should be reasonably respected, at least not tortured. That being said chasing seafood across my plate in China is one of the best meals I ever had.

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  11. Impressive reductions, but I wonder how much is left to gain? How low would the emissions be if *all* power plant were made/refitted according to the ULE-standards?

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