The impossible has happened

Shanghaiist.com
Feb 8, 2018 · 3 min read

Beijing has finally done the seemingly impossible, meeting national air quality standards for the first time — in the frigid month of January no less.

During January, PM2.5 levels in the Chinese capital averaged out at only 34 micrograms per cubic meter, falling just under the national air quality standard of 35. That standard was instituted back in 2012 and since then Beijing had never once managed to drop below it in any month.

While an average PM2.5 level of 34 is still far above the World Health Organization recommendation of only 10 micrograms per cubic meter, it’s down a dramatic 70.7% from last January — when Beijing was hit with a red alert for air pollution just a few days into the year that saw schools canceled, snow dirtied, and skyscrapers shrouded.

At that time, we were mocking Beijing for announcing plans to reduce the average density of PM2.5 in the city’s air to a mere 60 micrograms per cubic meter in 2017. Meanwhile, this January, Beijing’s environmental protection bureau has said that 25 out of 31 days in the month saw either “good” or “excellent” air quality.

This follows a similarly surprisingly breathable December — the best one in five years — that was only slightly marred by an all too familiar layer of gray descending upon the capital just before the New Year.

Beijing has benefited this winter from favorable trade winds blowing in from the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. However, the change in air quality is likely more attributable to a series of drastic measures taken by the city’s government, including: shutting down the capital’s last coal-fired power plant, setting up a special “smog squad” to keep unrepentant polluters in check, and banning all construction projects in the city this winter.

But perhaps the most radical change underway is a campaign to switch millions of mostly rural homes in nearby Hebei province from coal to natural gas heating. In November, coal-burning bans went into effect in 18 cities and districts surrounding the Chinese capital, resulting in severe shortages of natural gas that eventually caused the Chinese government to walk back its ban in order to make sure that families survived the winter.

Still, considering China’s incredible success at cleaning up Beijing skies, we can’t help but wonder why this didn’t happen so, before we got to the point that people were suggesting that the city should hand out fans to 15 million residents and charge them with blowing all the smog away.

Still, it does at least appear that we may not need to deploy 15 million people with fans after all.

thanks to a coordinated government effort aimed at staving off the usual airpocalpyses that blanket China’s capital city when it gets cold outside. Beijing recorded 25 days of good air quality in January thanks to both frequent cold fronts and human efforts in fighting air pollution, the environmental protection bureau said.

.

However, the most radical change underway is a campaign to switch millions of mostly rural homes in nearby Hebei province from coal to natural gas heating. In November, coal-burning bans went into effect in 18 cities and districts surrounding the Chinese capital, resulting in severe shortages of natural gas that eventually caused the Chinese government to walk back its ban in order to make sure that families survived the winter.

Shanghaiist

China in bite-sized portions

Shanghaiist.com

Written by

China in bite-sized portions.

Shanghaiist

China in bite-sized portions

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade