Shanghai looks to clear the airBy Dominic Dietrich Oct 21, 2013 3:43PM UTC
By Dominic Dietrich
Shanghai unveiled on Friday a wide-ranging plan to improve air quality in the city, flagging an overhaul of coal-burning practices, changes to public transportation, limits on industry and even a banning of certain vehicles on days of heavy pollution, among other measures.
The Shanghai municipal government’s scheme sets its primary focus on reducing by 2017 the annual concentration of PM2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less) by around 20 percent from 2012 levels. The plan broadly stated six sectors are to be targeted: energy, industry, transportation, construction, agriculture and social life.
Coal firing, in particular, will be affected. The plan states that the city’s 2,500 small-scale coal-fired boilers and its 300 industrial furnaces will be required to adopt substitute energy sources or close. By 2017, coal firing will be banned. Coal burning is a common source of pollution across much of China.
China Daily cited Wu Qizhou, deputy director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, as saying that natural gas will be distributed more quickly, while greater effort will be directed toward developing and using green energy – wind, solar and other renewable sources.
The Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information is revising which industries are acceptable, which should be limited and which should be fully removed. Industries in Shanghai will face stricter emissions controls and tougher thresholds for entry.
“The threshold in Shanghai will be higher than its national counterparts,” China Daily quoted Ma Jing, the commission’s chief engineer, as saying. “Some trades that are limited on the national list will be listed as those that will be weeded out in Shanghai. Projects in the areas of construction materials, coking and nonferrous metals that cause high pollution will be banned.”
Shanghai’s announcement comes amid a raft of clean air plans in China. In September, Beijing announced its own clean air initiative. The capital’s 2013-2017 plan looks to drastically cut coal consumption, increase clean energy use and remove or limit some polluting industries. Meanwhile, China also recently unveiled a national air pollution policy. In January and February of this year, air pollution in Beijing was so dire it occupied headlines across the world.
Wu said on Friday that PM2.5 levels in Shanghai had become a significant problem. “The average concentration of PM2.5 in Shanghai over the past 12 months was 57 micrograms per cubic meter and 28 percent of the days in the year failed to meet the latest national air quality standards,” Wu said.
Shanghai’s plan would look to increase the priority of public transportation. “In 2015, the use of public transportation will reach 50 percent in downtown districts,” said Pei Xiao, deputy chief engineer of the Shanghai Urban-Rural Construction and Transport Commission.
By the end of 2013, all of the city’s buses will be required to adhere to the National Standard V, a vehicle emissions standard which requires that the sulfur content in fuel be no more than 10 parts per million. Earlier this year, China’s State Council stated that this standard would be in force nationwide before the end of 2017.
According to Wu, on days of heavy smog in Shanghai, schools will be closed and those vehicles causing the most pollution will be banned. This measure somewhat mirrors Beijing’s recently announced policy of limiting drivers to commuting on every other day during periods of severe air pollution.
In discussing the plan with The Global Times, Qian Hua, deputy director of the atmospheric environment department at the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences, said achieving the stated goals will be difficult given the shear size of Shanghai’s economy.
Qian highlighted the need for cooperation with other cities in the region. “The plan needs to be truly enforced in all aspects, for example, not only considering vehicles, but also the emission controls for shipyards and aircraft, as Shanghai is now an international transport hub. It will be hard to win the fight if Shanghai doesn’t work with other cities in the Yangtze River Delta area,” he said.
The Yangtze River Delta is a 100,000-square kilometer region in China, encompassing 14 cities and a population of around 100 million people, according to China Today.