The launch of China's second air pollution action plan in 2018 marked the beginning of a new chapter in its battle for blue skies.
Air quality in many regions and cities across China improved significantly during the implementation of China’s first air pollution action plan called ‘The Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan (2013-17)’.
However, China was still far from enjoying healthy air in much of the country by 2018. In 2017 only 29% of the 338 prefectural level and above cities (98 cities) met China’s own relatively lax air quality standard with their annual average PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) concentration falling within 35 ug/m3. This was still an improvement on 2016 when just 24.9% (84 cities) met the standard.
We take a look at the build-up to and finally the launch of the new China air pollution action plan 2020 below.
To learn about the results in the first year of the plan's implementation please see our China air pollution 2018 article.
Following the completion of China’s first air pollution action plan at the end of 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) announced in January 2018 that a new nation-wide 3-year plan for 2018 to 2020 was being drafted and expected to be completed by June.
Despite successfully achieving all targets in the previous plan, the MEP stated that it would continue to ‘spare no efforts’ in its continuing battle against air pollution.
In early February Environment Minister Li Ganjie stated that the new 3-year plan would set a new target for residents of all of China’s 338 prefectural and above cities to enjoy ‘good’ or better air quality for 80% of all days in the year; representing within 100 on China’s Air Quality Index (AQI).
Some cities with poor air quality would also be required to lower their PM2.5 annual average concentration by 18%.
In mid-March, 2018 during China’s annual legislative meetings in Beijing, Environment Minister Li Ganjie again mentioned the drafting of the new air pollution action plan.
During the same session of China’s legislature, several functions related to protecting the environment previously under the authority of other ministries; such as Climate Change and emissions reductions within the authority of The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), were transferred over to Li’s ministry. At the same time, his now more powerful Ministry was rebranded as the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE).
On June 10th the MEE announced that a ‘massive environmental overhaul’ targeting air pollution control in China would be launched.
Thousands of inspectors would be sent out to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Surrounding Areas (BTH and Surrounding Areas) region, the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region and the Fenhe and Weihe River Plains (Fen-Wei Plains) region to uncover environmental issues.
The inspection would be completed by the end of April 2019.
On June 13th China’s cabinet, known as the State Council, under Premier Li Keqiang released a statement demanding that PM2.5 be significantly reduced by 2020.
The key regions for air pollution control in China would institute:
As well, some measures to be implemented on a nationwide scale were included in the statement:
On June 24th, 2018 the central leadership and the State Council published a new Directive setting goals in the fight against pollution in China including to “make people happy about seeing more blue skies”.
The Directive lists various policies, measures and targets including.:
On July 3rd, 2018 the State Council finally published the final version of the long awaited new 3-year air pollution action plan (2018-2020) dated June 27th.
The English name for the new plan is ‘The Three-Year Action Plan for Winning the Blue Sky War Plan’, but is also sometimes called 'The Blue Sky Defense Battle Plan’ or 'The Blue Sky Battle Plan'.
The name referred back to a speech by Premier Li in 2017 when he stated “We will make our skies blue again.”
Here is the official Chinese version of the Blue Sky Battle Plan.
China’s first Air Pollution Action Plan only called for reductions of the larger coarse particulate matter, PM10, on a nationwide scale. Reduction targets for the much more dangerous PM2.5 were only set for 3 key regions; Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (BTH) region, Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region, Pearl River Delta (PRD) region; plus the capital city of Beijing.
In 2013 only a very few Chinese cities were testing for PM2.5. concentrations. Requiring all 338 prefectural and above cities to start monitoring PM2.5 in real-time by 2015 was actually one of the stipulations in the 2013-2017 action plan.
With data for PM2.5 concentrations across the country now available since 2015, the new 2020 Action Plan stipulates that all of the 338 cities that had not yet met China’s own standard for healthy air as of 2015 must reduce their PM2.5 concentration 18 percent by 2020.
The base year for the targets in the Blue Sky Defense Battle Plan (2018-2020) is 2015 instead of 2017.
This is to match the air pollution action plan with targets set in the section for environmental protection of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016- 2020).
Many of the cities yet to meet China’s air quality standard in 2015 as well as yet to meet the 18% reduction of their 2015 annual average PM2.5 concentration by the end of 2017 (which would also eliminate them as a target from this new plan) are located in the 3 ‘key regions’, which are the primary focus of the new air pollution action plan.
Other nationwide targets for 2020 listed in the new air pollution action plan include:
The Blue Sky action plan also sets some location specific targets including:
Air Pollution Still Occasionally Attacks Beijing, But Blue Skies Are Much More Common Than Before
Even before the final version of the national air pollution action plan was published, some regions and cities had begun to release drafts of their local plans for 2018 to 2020:
Unfortunately, the targets in these 2020 plans are still yet to meet China’s own standard for healthy air, let alone the World Health Organization’s (WHO) much stricter standard for annual average PM2.5 concentration within 10 ug/m3 or the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard of 12 ug/m3. So it would be wise for all expats moving to China to find solutions for air pollution while here.
Return to our air quality in China main menu.
Find our health and safety home page to see many more common Shanghai expat queries.