Last year, I posted the news that China had adopted new standards for air particulate matter in cities. While those standards remain well above the upper limits recommended by the World Health Organization, only 9 cities (of 161 monitored) were able to meet them in the first half of 2014. Those cities, according to a recent report in the New York Times, are Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Zhoushan, Zhanjiang, Yunfu, Beihai, Haikou, Sanya, and Lhasa. All of these cities, with the exception of Lhasa, are in southern China, where climate factors help keep the air cleaner, and where there is generally less large-scale industry than in the north. These factors apply in the case of Lhasa as well.
Not surprisingly, Beijing is not on the list, though as noted in the earlier post, China’s capital (and the entire northern Hebei region) is being held to much stricter standards. Still, the city has announced further restrictions in its ongoing efforts to reduce air pollution. According to The New York Times, “the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said the capital would ban the use of coal in six districts and neighboring regions by the end of 2020. Other high-polluting fuels, such as petroleum coke, and some biomass fuel will also be banned. Electricity and natural gas will be promoted for heating and cooking instead.” The article points out, however, that a ban on coal in Beijing won’t have much effect on China’s overall coal consumption:
because Beijing is “a very minor coal-consuming region,” Rohan Kendall, the China consulting manager at Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “Total coal consumption in China is more than four billion tons annually, of which Beijing consumed only 15 million tons last year,” Mr. Kendall said, adding that Beijing receives most of its energy, and pollution, from neighboring provinces. He said he doubted that many other cities would emulate Beijing’s plan. “Coal is just too important for China,” he said.