Archive for August, 2009

introducing the chinese government map for national energy and environmental policy

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Anyone who researches or follows Chinese energy and environmental policy knows that the Chinese government is filled with a large number of overlapping ministries, administrations, institutes, think tanks, research groups, etc.  Just keeping the acronyms straight can be a nightmare, not to mention understanding organizationally how they are all related to each other.

Several months ago, I launched a personal project to map out the organizational relationship between all Chinese government and government-affiliated institutions with influence over national energy and environmental policy. I showed a first draft, tailored for fuel quality policy creation, at a presentation I gave in April (slide 16). It received such a positive response that I set out to expand and release something publicly via this blog.

I’m very happy now to introduce version 1.0 of the Chinese Government Map for National Energy and Environmental Policy. Here’s a partial screen capture; click to go to the map itself:


Version 1.0 is functionally static (with the exception of pop-up names), although I intend to update it regularly. Accordingly, I need your feedback, particularly on identifying which institutions are missing. To make a suggestion, please either leave a comment below or e-mail me at livefrombeijing at gmail dot com. When suggesting an organization, please provide as much information as possible, including acronym, Chinese and English names, website, and evidence that it is an influential national government or government-affiliated institution. I would also appreciate it if you would pass along any related research reports or diagrams.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, and hope that you find the map to be a useful tool.

beijing epb admits blue sky data frequency abnormality

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Although a little late, I do want to highlight a rather unexpected comment from the Beijing EPB at a press conference in early July. As reported in the Time blog:

[The Beijing EPB] spent much of their press conference Friday responding to doubts about the veracity of their numbers. Last year an American environmental consultant pointed out that the official numbers showed a disproportionately high number of days that fell just within the official target for a “blue sky day.” Yu Jianhua, head of Beijing’s environmental monitoring center, said the local government used emergency measures such as closing down construction sites on days when it expected pollution would exceed targets. That led to the high number of days just under the cutoff, Yu said.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Beijing EPB both directly acknowledge that a statistical anomaly in the number of blue sky days exists and provide a concrete reason why. The statistical anomaly I’m referring to can be be seen in this figure, from a 2008 report by environmental consultant Steven Andrews. The graph appears to show data biasing right around the “blue sky day” cut-off point (in this case, a PM10 concentration of 150 ug/m3).

api inconsistency
It has been interesting to watch the evolving responses from the EPB to Mr. Andrews’ discovery – from official data – of what appears to be blatant data massaging to achieve an artificial result. In February 2008, Beijing EPB spokesperson Du Shaozhong infamously responded to criticisms of data manipulation with, “this phenomenon does not exist. ” By July 2008, in a press conference before the Olympics, the Beijing EPB response had shifted to the bewildering  “some convenience maybe taken in very adverse situations to improve the air quality within 9 square kilometers so that the API can remain at or below 100.” (The WSJ reported on this response the following day.)

Now, however, we have a definitive claim from the Beijing EPB that the preponderance of API values just below the blue sky day cut-off point resulted from emergency measures taken on days which were predicted to be dangerously close to the limit.

As is so often the case in China, this reponse only makes me ask more questions. Questions like:

– Why didn’t the Beijing EPB admit this last year, as soon as Mr. Andrews’ report came out?
– How are such accurate predictions made? Can we have more details on the program, like which factories or construction sites were closed?
– Why do this at all? Is there really a critical human health benefit to a 99 API day as opposed to a 101 day? (Answer: not really, since where we need to be is below 20.)
– Why were these emergency shut-downs conducted from 2003-2007, but not in 2008?
– Was this program really conducted in dozens of cities around China?

I can keep asking questions of course, but I think it’s time now to invoke Occam’s Razor in support of the more obvious conclusion…

More info in related posts on this blog:
October 2008: problems with the blue sky day metric
March 2009:  looking for biasing in 2008 blue sky day data
June 2009: new report shows widespread air quality data manipulation

Final note: I am playing catch up on posting after falling behind the last few weeks with the site redesign and work distractions. Apologies in advance that some of the commentary will be on “old” (e.g., from July) news.

china’s plans for high-emitting vehicles

Friday, August 21st, 2009

A recent Xinhua article carried this quote:

“High-emission cars and trucks only make up 28 percent of all automobiles in China, but they are responsible for 75 percent of the pollutant emissions,” [MEP Official Li Xinmin] said.

The pollutant amount discharged by a high-emission vehicle is 30 times as much as a Standard IV automobile, according to Li.

Based on this, it is clear that one critical component of a comprehensive vehicle emission control program is controlling “high-emitting” vehicles. In this post, I’ll describe some key recent progress China has made on this front.

Definition of High-Emitting / Yellow-Label Vehicles

yellow label

Technically, there are two main categories of high-emitting vehicles. The first is older vehicles which entered the market prior to the implementation of stringent tailpipe emission standards. This post, as well as most of the recent policies and media referencing high-emitting vehicles, focuses on this first category only.

The second category of high-emitting vehicles includes vehicles which – because of lack of durability, improper maintenance, tampering, etc. – do not meet whatever emission standard they are supposed to meet.  There are separate strategies for managing this second category (for example, routine emission inspections and “spotter” programs), but I will save these for another post.

Within China, high-emitting vehicles of the first type are also referred to as “yellow-label vehicles.” According to this announcement, yellow-label vehicles are defined as gasoline vehicles which do not meet the China I emission standard, and diesel vehicles with do not meet the China III emission standard (“黄标车”是指污染物排放达不到国Ⅰ标准的汽油车和达不到国Ⅲ标准的柴油车”).

Control Strategy

China’s control strategy for high-emitting vehicles has essentially three parts:

Part 1: Identify

China is identifying high-emitters through a vehicle environmental labeling program. Not surprisingly, the term “yellow-label” comes from the fact that these vehicles will be given a yellow environmental label for their windshields; other vehicles will be given a green label. Beijing and many other cities in China already have such a labeling program (for more information, see this post; also Beijing’s 2004 labeling standard), but there is new evidence that MEP plans to take the program nationwide (original MEP announcement here (Chinese)).

Part 2: Restrict movement

Once the high-emitting vehicles are clearly identified and labeled, it becomes much easier to implement a system of restricting vehicle activity based on emission level, with a goal of preventing high emitters from entering densely-populated areas. There are currently restrictions on yellow-label vehicle movement in at least several cities in China:

1/1/09: No yellow-label vehicles may enter inside the Fifth Ring Road
9/1/09: No vehicles without environmental labels may enter Beijing City
After 10/1/09: No yellow-label vehicles may enter inside the Sixth Ring Road
Sources: MEP announcement (Chinese); China Daily , Xinhua (English)

8/1/09: No high-emitting vehicles inside Zhonghuan Road
Source: SHEPB announcement (Chinese), Xinhua (English)

Shenzhen and Hangzhou also appear to have similar programs.

Part 3: Incentivize scrappage / early retirement

In addition to labeling vehicles and restricting movement accordingly, China is also using fiscal incentives to incentivize car owners to scrap their old cars and buy new ones. On July 13th of this year, ten (!) Chinese ministries together issued an announcement about a trade-in / scrappage program for high-emitting vehicles, which lists available subsidies ranging from 3000 to 6000 RMB for consumers who scrap their yellow-label vehicles and buy new ones. More info in English in this AFP story.


By July 9th, even before the national subsidies program was announced, Beijing had apparently already scrapped over 80,000 high emitting vehicles. This is, of course, a terrific start, although China has a long way to go to eliminate the estimated 18 million total high-emitters nationwide.

For excellent additional commentary and analysis, visit the NRDC’s Greenlaw blog:

6/19/09: Another Look at Beijing’s High Polluting Vehicle Phase-out Plan
5/14/09: Beijing’s “Yellow Label” Car Policy Aims to Reduce Vehicle Pollution

SAC website shows new diesel standard

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

The Standardization Administration of China is now listing a new automobile diesel fuel standard on its website. The standard, GB 19147-2009, is shown with an Issuance Date of 6/12/2009 and an Execute (Implementation) Date of 1/1/2010:

new diesel standard

In May of this year, the State Council announced that a new diesel fuel quality standard would be mandated by 2010, but no date was given. This SAC notice may be our first indication that China intends to implement China III quality diesel fuel (350ppm sulfur content) nationwide on January 1st.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a full version of the standard; it seems unusual that the text of a (theoretically) issued standard is not available. Let’s not celebrate until we read the full text, but if China does in fact mandate nationwide 350ppm sulfur diesel fuel at the beginning of next year, this is a huge win for air quality and the introduction of more advanced diesel emission control technologies.