If the trend continues, the average Chinese citizen will see their life expectancy increase by 2.4 years relative to 2013
It was on March 4, 2014, that the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, announced live on TV that â€œwe will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty.â€ Four years after, daily data collected from more than 200 monitors across the country show that Chinaâ€™s most populated areas have experienced remarkable improvements in air quality, meaning that the first of many battles in the â€œwar against pollutionâ€ has seen remarkable success. In fact, the declines on concentrations of fine particulates in the air range from 21 to 42% (32% on average), in many cases meeting or exceeding the goals outlined in their National Air Quality Action Plan. This is the finding of Michael Greenstone of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, whose paper was recently published.
In more detail, Beijing cut its concentration of fine particulates by 35%, Hebei Provinceâ€™s capital city, Shijiazhuang, by 39% and Baoding, Chinaâ€™s most polluted city in 2015, by 38%. If the declines in air pollution persisted, then life expectancy for Beijingers is expected to rise by about 3.3 years, by 5.3 years for those in Shijiazhuang, and 4.5 years for residents of Baoding, while nationally, residents could expect to live 2.4 years longer on average.
However, Greenstone points out that â€œChinaâ€™s early reductions in air pollution have been achieved through an engineering-style fiat that dictates specific actions, rather than relying on markets to find the least expensive methods to reduce pollution,â€ and that â€œfurther improvements will also be much costlier than necessary if they too are pursued by fiat, particularly with many of the easier fixes having already been made.â€ Another concerning fact is that air pollution has been toned down due to the countryâ€™s pre-eminence in solar panel and electric vehicle production and sales, but little has been done to address water and soil pollution.
How China reached the first goals
In late 2013, the country released a national air quality action plan, setting limits on coal use and vehicles. It required all urban areas to reduce concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM) pollution by at least 10% and in Beijing for instance, the decline should reach 25% and $120 billion were allocated for that purpose. New coal-fired power plants in the countryâ€™s most polluted regions were prohibited, existing plants were forced to reduce their emissions, otherwise the coal was replaced with natural gas and some coal mines were shut down. Also, large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, restricted the number of cars on the road.
Source: New York Times
Image Source: Berkeley Earth
Published in Bloomberg