China pollution

Quarter of Beijing's air pollution originates from elsewhere

In breaking down the source of the capital's air pollution, the local environmental bureau shows the answer will require regional effort

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 4:27pm

Nearly a quarter of the smog that blankets Beijing originates from neighbouring provinces and cities, the municipal environmental bureau said yesterday, highlighting a key challenge the capital faces in reducing its air pollution.

Under a national plan released by the State Council earlier this month, Beijing must cut one of the main causes of smog - fine particles - to around 60 micrograms cubic metre by 2017.

The municipal government was confident it could achieve the target, so long as other areas met their goals, Fang Li, a bureau spokesman, said at a press conference yesterday announcing the city's clean air strategy.

"The central government has also given objectives to nearby provinces and cities - including Hebei , Inner Mongolia, Shandong , Shanxi and Tianjin - so if they can take care of their own problems, Beijing will be fine with the 2017 target," Li said.

The bureau said air pollution arising from nearby regions contributed to 25 per cent of the capital's smog. The other significant sources are local vehicle emissions, at 22 per cent, and coal burning, at 17 per cent.

The finding highlights the challenge Beijing faces in tackling the problem - neighbouring areas fear any bold measures will stifle their economic growth.

Fang said the municipal government would invest an estimated 200 billion (HK$252.1 billion) to 300 billion yuan in its five-year effort to meet the State Council's goal.

The city would reduce coal consumption from the current 23 million tonnes a year to 10 million tonnes, limit the total number of vehicles it permits on the roads to 6 million, and close down 1,200 polluting factories.

In the first six months of the year, the capital recorded an average PM2.5 level of 102 micrograms per cubic metre. This is still well above the national standard of 35, and the safe limit of 10 recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Hebei and Tianjin must lower their PM2.5 levels by 25 per cent by 2017, while Shanxi and Shandong must reduce it to 20 per cent, and Inner Mongolia to 10 per cent.

Under the State Council's plan, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta should "strive for a reduction in their total coal consumption".

An analysis by Greenpeace found that existing coal reduction plans in the Beijing-Tianjin- Hebei areas were insufficient for the capital city to meet its target reduction. The three areas aim to cut coal consumption by 63 million tonnes a year by 2017, but the organisation said they would need raise the figure to 80 million tonnes to make the target feasible. Coal use in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia would have to come down as well.