The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau has posted a news brief titled “2009年我市达标天数比去年多11 天实现空气质量11年持续改善” (“The number of days meeting the standard in our city in 2009 was 11 more than last year, realizing 11 consecutive years of continuous air quality improvement”).
Here are some rough and quick translations of some key parts:
“This year, the number of days at Grade II or better reached 285, 78.1% of the year, which is 11 more days than last year. The total is 25 days more than the municipal government’s goal of 260 days. We have realized 11 years of continuous air quality improvement.”
“There are three key characteristics to this year’s air quality improvement:
First, we reached the annual goal early. This year’s air quality improvement goal was met 41 days early, the earliest we have met the annual goal since 1999.”
“Second, the number of days meeting the standard has increased obviously, while the number of days of Grade IV or worse (moderate/heavy pollution) has decreased obviously. This year the number of days at Grade II or better was 285, an improvement over 2000 of 16.8 percentage points. There were only five days of Grade IV or worse, the lowest of any year of the past 10, and 18 less than the year 2000.”
“Third, the concentration of major pollutants has decreased obviously; SO2 and inhalable particles etc. are the lowest in 11 years. According to initial analysis, the concentration of the source complex of inhalable particles fell over the last 11 years to 120 ug/m^3, a reduction of about 0.8% below the Olympic year last year. SO2, which has a close relationship to burning of coal, has continued to drop even after meeting the national standard, dropping 5.6% from last year. Both of which are the lowest in 11 years, reduced from 2000 by 52.1% and 25.3%, respectively.”
“Reflecting on 2009, our city’s air quality on the whole was relatively good…”
The note continues by describing the policies that have been implemented to improve air quality, including implementing the Outlook on Scientific Development, adjusting industrial structure, scrapping yellow-label vehicles, vigorously controlling dust, increasing use of natural gas instead of coal, etc., plus increased general public support and participation.
“Although our city met its 2009 air quality goal early, there is still a gap between the current air quality and the requirements of the national standard, the public’s hope, and building an international city. From today on, Beijing will continue to follow and implement the Outlook on Scientific Development, and, in accordance with the requirements of building a “Cultural Beijing, Scientific Beijing, Green Beijing,” will carry on the precious Olympic environmental wealth. We will increase work efforts to prevent and control air pollution, continue promoting improvements in air quality, strengthen water pollution treatment, control noise pollution, and comprehensively promote all types of environmental protection work and raise the capital’s eco-environmental quality to a new level.”
I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of person, but celebrating a 0.8% decrease in particulate pollution when you are still 20% above your own national standard? Seriously? And calling your air quality “relatively good on the whole” (“我市空气质量总体上较好”)? While it may be true that the air quality is good relative to 2000, a claim like that is pretty disingenuous, given that Beijing’s air quality is still terrible by international standards. The SO2 drop is encouraging news, as is the decrease in Grade IV+ days, but what about the conspicuously missing third pollutant that’s reported daily, NO2? I guess we’ll have to wait until the mid-year environmental report for that. In the meantime, at least it’s nice to see the acknowledgment (at the end) that Beijing’s air quality still isn’t meeting the national standard – seems this information is usually left out of these announcements.
Related: Summary of Beijing’s 2009 Air Quality