The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection today released a very detailed list of emergency measures (in Chinese) to be implemented just before the Games start if there is continued concern about meeting air quality targets.
The plan includes further limits on production at factories in and around Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, as well as even stricter vehicle restrictions. Under the new plan, in Beijing, in addition to the odd/even car restriction, vehicles whose license plate’s last digit matches the last digit of the date would also be banned (though the same exemptions as the odd/even ban would still apply – taxis, emergency vehicles, etc.). Tianjin and Hebei would implement a similar odd/even car ban as Beijing currently has.
The unusually specific document includes exact numbers of factories affected (105 in Beijing, 56 in Tianjin, 61 in Hebei). Reuters has more.
The need for an emergency plan demonstrates a few things:
First, Plan A didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? To be honest, I’m surprised that it didn’t, but I think there is a lot to be learned from the results. One big lesson is simply that Beijing’s air quality is affected by a number of complex variables, including pollutant emissions, geography, wind and weather, meaning that it is virtually impossible to predict day-to-day air quality variability, much less the specific impacts of specific control policies.
Second, the WRI’s Debbi Seligsohn has a good piece up about how it proves cars aren’t the problem, and I think this is a key point. Given that Beijing’s primary pollution problem is particulate matter, the majority of which likely stems from factories / construction sites / dust (not vehicles), one would not necessarily expect vehicle restrictions alone to have a large effect. (Though accompanying the 7/20 vehicles ban were parallel factory / construction restrictions.)
Third, as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, it shows the Chinese government’s complete commitment to meeting its air quality targets, regardless of economic impact. My colleague at lunch was asking who is going to pay these factories for lost production…a question we may never know the answer to.