Earlier this week, Beijing’s government “declared war” (宣战) on PM2.5, releasing its most aggressive, detailed plan to date to reduce emissions and improve air quality. The overall goal of the plan is to reduce Beijing’s PM2.5 concentration about 25% from 2012 levels by 2017. The targets vary by district, but the overall average for the city – and the target for the most densely populated areas – is 60 ug/m3. Achieving this target would represent dramatic progress for the city, though even at 60 ug/m3 Beijing’s air quality would still be nearly double China’s ambient air quality annual standard (35 ug/m3).
Still, the plan is impressive in its breadth, specificity, and detailed assignment of responsibility. For each of the 84 separate measures described, the leading agencies – and even name of the person(s) on the hook – are mentioned.
Several of the key features of the plan have already been summarized by the media (e.g. Reuters, Xinhua, CRI). But I thought it would be worthwhile to translate and take a closer look at some of the specific actions related to motor vehicle emission control (Section 3 of the plan). The 22 measures described (#21-42) represent a truly comprehensive and world class approach to controlling air pollution from cars, buses, and trucks in the city. Beijing already has mainland China’s highest fuel quality (10 ppm S) and most stringent tailpipe emission standards (China V). Completing the following plan would cement Beijing’s position not just as a leader within China but as one of the world’s leading cities in terms of motor vehicle emission control.
Selected vehicle emission control measures from Beijing’s 2013-2017 Clean Air Action Plan:
#21: Control total vehicle population in the city to less than 6 million by the end of 2017. Given that the population of vehicles in Beijing already well exceeds 5 million, this will almost certainly mean reducing the current monthly new vehicle quota of 20,000.
#22: Reduce fuel consumption in the city by >5% in 2017 as compared to 2012, primarily through the promotion of new energy vehicles, small vehicles, and reducing overall vehicle use.
#23: Increase the cost of vehicle use through various measures, including progressive parking pricing and a congestion charge (though it should be noted that that the plan only commits to researching this, not to implementing it).
#24: Restrict vehicle use by time and location, including more strict controls on vehicles registered outside Beijing. Beijing already has such restrictions, but they will be expanded. For example, beginning in 2014, only China III and higher certified vehicles will be eligible to receive permits to regularly enter the 6th ring road. After 2015, only China IV and higher light-duty vehicles will be eligible for permits to enter the city, and yellow-label trucks (China II and older) will be banned altogether.
#26: Upgrade vehicle emission standards for on-road vehicles and off-road engines.
- By the end of 2014, all new heavy-duty diesel vehicles should meet the China V standard, while all new heavy-duty diesel vehicles used in the city center should be equipped with DPFs. In addition, 100 public buses should meet the China VI standard (pilot), and Beijing EPB should begin research on the “Beijing 6” standards for LDVs.
- Beginning in 2015, all off-road equipment must meet the Tier 4 standard or better.
- By 2015, Beijing EPB will complete an ORVR standard and implementation plan for gasoline vehicles.
- Strive to implement the China VI standards in 2016.
#27: Improve fuel quality by establishing a China 6 standard for local fuel quality and strive to implement it in 2016. Beijing has the potential to surpass Europe (currently at Euro 5) in this regard.
#28: Scrap one million older vehicles, including all yellow-label vehicles by 2015. Beginning 2014, preferentially support the replacement of vehicles with hybrid and energy-saving vehicles with displacement <1.6 L. This would presumably be an extension/expansion of Beijing’s existing scrappage programs, which are already China’s most successful. (Latest stats: Beijing scrapped nearly 150,000 vehicles in the first half of 2013.)
#29-37: Incredibly specific targets for introducing clean and alternative fuel vehicles (electric, hybrid, natural gas, etc.) in the public bus, taxi, long-distance bus, municipal service vehicles, freight, and low-speed vehicle fleets.
#38: Strive to have 200,000 new energy and clean energy vehicles in the city by the end of 2017.
#41: Strengthen in-use vehicle supervision and fuel quality compliance, including greatly expanding the number of random emissions inspections, building a full remote sensing network with 150 sets of equipment by 2016, and increasing the number of fuel quality checks including vapor recovery system evaluations.
#42: Set energy reduction standards for the transportation sector, including fuel consumption standards for freight vehicles. This will be interesting as it’s unclear what authority Beijing has to set or enforce such standards.
It’s really quite an impressive list. In many cases, there is significant additional detail beyond what I’ve described above, plus there are additional measures on public transit that I didn’t include here.
So, will it work? We’ll see. In any case, at this point it’s hard to imagine anything else Beijing could be doing beyond what’s in this plan to control emissions within its borders. Unfortunately, much of Beijing’s pollution is regional in nature, drifting in from the surrounding provinces. Hopefully, Beijing’s aggressive action demonstrated in this plan will spurn equivalent aggressive, comprehensive action at the regional and national levels.