List last updated Beijing time 4/1/13 6:00am
In the fall of 2011, public discontent over a series of poor air quality episodes in Beijing ultimately led to an impressive series of actions by China’s national Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB). It took a few months, but by February 2012, China had issued a revision to the ambient air quality standards, a new definition of the Air Quality Index, and by the end of the year, had completed and began operating a network of real-time PM2.5 monitors in 74 cities through the country.
So if the “wins” of the fall of 2011 were great strides towards monitoring and reporting, then here’s to hoping that this most recent episode of crazy bad air will turn into progress on actually reducing emissions themselves.
To help track the progress, I’m creating here a timeline of “official” Chinese government responses to date on the recent severe pollution in Beijing and many other cities across China. This includes major announcements I have seen from MEP and the Beijing EPB; if anyone knows of other key announcements I’ve missed, from other ministries, or from other cities like Shanghai, let me know and I’d be happy to add them. I will be curious to see where this list goes in the coming months.
Note 1: Major announcements shown in bold.
Note 2: MEP often back-dates announcements; the dates shown here are the “official” release dates, even though often the announcements don’t go up publicly until a week (or more) later.
1/12: “Crazy bad” air hits Beijing and other cities across China, sparking unprecedented reaction from domestic and international media and the general public
1/14: MEP issues its first official response, “Notice requiring each area to conscientiously conduct air quality monitoring and early warnings on heavy pollution days” 环境保护部发出通知要求各地认真做好重污染天气条件下空气质量监测预警工作
1/14: MEP issues a draft arsenic pollution prevention technical standard for public comment 关于征求《砷污染防治技术政策》（征求意见稿）意见的函
1/15: MEP and Beijing EPB issue a brief evaluation and explanation of the pollution, “Beiing EPB analysis of the extended severe pollution – large emissions the fundamental reason” 北京市环保局分析持续严重污染原因 排放量大是根本原因
1/15: Vice Premier Li Keqiang issues a brief and fairly anodyne comment pledging action: 李克强谈空气污染治理问题：我们必须有所作为
1/17: MEP issues the second round draft light-duty vehicle China 5 tailpipe emission standard for public comment 关于征求《轻型汽车污染物排放限值及测量方法（中国第五阶段）》（二次征求意见稿）意见的函
1/17: MEP issues a draft mercury pollution prevention technical standard for public comment 关于征求《汞污染防治技术政策》（征求意见稿）意见的函
1/18: Beijing EPB issues a super strange announcement warning websites not to claim official approval to report air quality numbers: 关于对部分社会化监测机构冒用我局名义进行虚假宣传有关说明的公告
1/19: Beijing issues a major new set of comprehensive regulations on air pollution prevention and control: 《北京市大气污染防治条例(草案送审稿)》
1/23: Beijing’s mayor Wang Anshun makes a speech in the context of the Beijing People’s Congress with some numbers to back up the new regs (not sure the best link for this; perhaps this work report 《政府工作报告》解读：展望·2013年的北京)
1/23: Beijing issues new tailpipe emissions equivalent to Euro 5/V for gasoline cars and municipal diesel vehicles, implementation starts almost immediately on 2/1: 北京2月1日起执行第五阶段机动车排放标准
1/24: MEP Minister Zhou Shengxian holds National Environmental Protection Work meeting, pledges some actions 全国环境保护工作会议在京召开
1/24: Influential Tsinghua professor says China’s Clean Air Act revisions moving forward (I will update official link when I find one) 机动车污染防治条款浮出水面 环保不达标召回
1/25: MEP releases a notice about the implementation of Stage II emission limits for gasoline non-road mobile machinery: 关于实施国家第二阶段非道路移动机械用小型点燃式非手持式发动机排放标准的公告 (note: I can’t figure out how this announcement changes anything about existing schedule)
2/4: State Council issues roadmap for diesel and gasoline fuel quality improvement: 温家宝主持召开国务院常务会议 – 决定加快油品质量升级
2/6: MEP issues draft for public comment of “Atmospheric Fine Particle Pollution Prevention and Control Technology Policy (trial)” 环境空气细颗粒物污染防治技术政策(试行)
2/7: SAC issues new diesel fuel quality standard (China IV): GB19147-2013
2/16: MEP issues statement about air quality during the Chinese New Year holiday: 环境保护部通报春节期间我国部分城市空气质量状况
2/16: MEP approves Tsinghua University to build an air pollution control laboratory 关于同意建设国家环境保护大气复合污染来源与控制重点实验室的复函
2/17: MEP issues 12th Five-Year Plan for Environmental Standards: 关于印发《国家环境保护标准“十二五”发展规划》的通知
2/26: MEP releases two new draft standards on air quality monitoring, including monitor placement, for public comment: 关于征求《环境空气质量评价技术规范（试行）》等两项国家环境保护标准意见的函
3/15: Beijing releases the 2013 Clean Air Action Plan 我市发布实施2013年清洁空气行动计划
3/22: MEP releases a notice about “Implementation plan for stage II monitoring for ambient air quality standards” 关于印发《空气质量新标准第二阶段监测实施方案》的通知
3/29: Beijing and Tianjin sign an agreement to work together on improving air quality 京津两市签署协议加强环保合作共同致力于改善环境质量
3/29: News reports suggest that Beijing will spend 100 billion RMB to combat air pollution as part of its previously released 2013清洁空气行动计划
I will try to update this from time to time. Note that not all of these are direct responses to the pollution episodes; for example, the draft standards have been under development for months if not years. I don’t know whether or not the decision to release them for public comment now is linked to the recent pollution episode…