Beijing reports lowest PM2.5 density in H1 2019

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Beijing's average PM2.5 density during the first six months of 2019 was 46 micrograms per cubic meter, the lowest since Beijing began tracking the data in 2012. The new number was reported Monday at the opening of the 2019 Beijing International Forum for Metropolitan Clean Air Actions.

At the forum, the head of the atmospheric environment department of the Beijing Municipal Ecological Environment Bureau, Li Xiang, said the city has mapped out its action plan for air quality improvement from 2018 to 2020, with a focus on nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound emissions and motor vehicles, dusts and production, and daily life as main targets. He said that emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles will be prioritized in Beijing's traffic structural adjustment to bring down vehicle emissions. By the end of 2020, the number of new energy vehicles will hit 400,000 and the volume of freight transferred by train will increase by 10%.

He Kebin, dean of Tsinghua University's School of Environment and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, delivered a speech at the forum focusing on Beijing's efforts and progress in air quality control over the past two decades. He said, with rapid social-economic growth, Beijing has seen a 74% increase in population, a 351% increase in motor vehicle ownership, and an 86% increase in energy consumption. Meanwhile, Beijing's air quality has been significantly improved. From 1998 to 2017, the annual average density of sulfur dioxide, dioxide and PM10 had seen drops of 93%, 38%, and 55%, respectively. Much of the improvement had been made during 2013 to 2017. In terms of volatile organic compounds, Beijing is one of the few cities in China that both lower their growth rate and total amount.

He also said that efforts from Beijing alone can only have a limited impact on air quality control-hence the need for strengthened collaboration between Beijing and its neighboring areas. He suggested that in the future, vehicles, oil, and roads should all be well managed to bring down motor vehicle emissions, and that PM2.5 and ozone should be tackled together as ozone will become a more pressing issue while PM2.5 density is on the decline. What's more, He said energy mix and energy efficiency improvement should be higher on the agenda, and pollution resulting from people's daily lives should be better controlled.

According to reports, Beijing's air quality had been fairly good on 36.7% of the days in June, a 10% drop year-on-year. The average PM2.5 density was 39 micrograms per cubic meter, a 9.3% drop. During the first half of this year, air quality was fairly good on 62.4% of the days, up by 2.7% from 2018. The average PM2.5 density of 46 micrograms per cubic was 13.2% lower than the previous year.

Beijing's air quality improvement is on track to hit a threshold between 2030 and 2035, at which point Beijing's PM2.5 density will reach national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter and that its skies will remain blue, according to He, who said the exact time when this happens will depend on energy mix improvement and concerted efforts from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

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