Shanghai Air Pollution

In our Shanghai air quality article we discussed government initiatives in 2013 to reduce Shanghai air pollution.

The key plan to tackle Shanghai air pollution was unveiled by the local government in October of that year. Known as The Shanghai Clean Air Action Plan, it set the goal of reducing annual average PM 2.5 density in Shanghai by 20 percent from the 2012 base year by 2017.

In this article, we shall take a look at the composition of Shanghai air pollution, the air pollution situation from 2014 to early 2016, and the measures adopted by the Shanghai government to reduce air pollution during this period.

Composition of Shanghai Air Pollution

According to a report from July 2014 Shanghai air pollution is composed of:

  • vehicle and factory emissions: 50 percent
  • dust from construction sites: 10.5 percent,
  • power stations: 7.3 percent
  • straw burning: 10 percent
  • from other provinces: the remainder

Another report from earlier in 2014 gave the following break-down of Shanghai pollution:

  • emissions from industrial plants in Shanghai: 32.9 percent
  • motor vehicles, ships and planes accounted: 25.8 percent
  • dust, cooking and the agricultural sector: 19.8 percent
  • pollutants from outside Shanghai: 21.5 percent

Shanghai traffic declared the worst in all of China.

A report issued in early January 2015 had this break-down of air pollution sources in Shanghai for the years 2012-2013:

- 26 percent of the air pollutants in Shanghai came from other cities and provinces.

Of the air pollution created from within the city:

  • cars, ships and other modes of transport: 29 percent
  • industrial emissions: 29 percent
  • coal burning: 13.5 percent
  • dust: 13.5 percent
  • agricultural production and the general public: 15 percent
Shanghai Pollution

Shanghai Air Pollution in 2014

According to the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, the average level of PM2.5 in 2014 in Shanghai dropped by 16.1 percent from 2013 levels; from 62 to 52ug/m3.

This good news, however, was tempered with figures released by China's Environmental Protection Ministry showing that air quality actually worsened in the Yangtze River Delta region, encompassing Shanghai, in the first half of 2014 due to an increase in Ozone levels.

Ozone is a problem in Shanghai during the summer months. Average levels increased by 12.8 percent in the Yangtze River Delta region in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013.

Shanghai expats are familiar with the hazards of PM 2.5 particulate matter, but Ozone is another serious pollutant which can also damage our health.

According to the WHO, Ozone is a major factor in asthma morbidity and mortality. It can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases.

China's Ministry of Science and Technology issued the draft of a five-year air pollution control project in March 2015 in which they recognized ozone must also be tackled.

For the health effects of other air pollutants you can see the WHO air pollution report here.

Shanghai Air Pollution in 2015

The first half of 2015 saw a step backwards in the battle against Shanghai air pollution.

Government officials told a conference on pollution that the average density of PM2.5 pollutants actually rose 14 percent in Shanghai in the first three months of 2015, from the equivalent period of 2014 to 66 micrograms per cubic meter.

According to the report: "The increase was mostly due to dust from building sites, vehicle emissions and a fluctuating climate.”

However, the average density fell back to 52 for the first 8 months, and then to 50.4 for the first 9 months of 2015, so below 2014’s average level of 52.

Unfortunately, the good times did not last. Due to severe air pollution in the last quarter of 2015 Shanghai's yearly average PM2.5 concentration grew by 3.14 percent over 2014 levels to 53ug/m3.

This has increased the pressure on authorities in their battle to reduce average PM2.5 density to 49.6 (a 20% reduction from 2012 levels) by 2017; a commitment they made in the Clean Air Action Plan of 2013.

Is Shanghai Air Quality Better than Beijing Air Quality?

Shanghai Air Pollution

The average PM2.5 level in Shanghai in 2013 was 60.7 ug/m3; much worse than the China National air quality standard of 35ug/m3, but still lower than Beijing's average of 89.5 ug/m3.

While Shanghai air quality worsened in 2015 compared to 2014, Beijing air quality saw a big improvement. However, Beijing’s average PM2.5 level in 2015 was still 80.6 micrograms per cubic meter, while Shanghai’s was a much better 53 ug/m3.

So should Shanghai expats feel more fortunate when it comes to air quality than Beijing expats?

Not so fast!

In studies by Chinese scientists, the smaller PM1.0 particles were shown to have much more serious consequences to our health than PM2.5. Though PM2.5 levels are lower in Shanghai, our PM1.0 levels are actually worse than in Beijing.

Measures to Tackle Shanghai Air Pollution in 2014

  1. Real-time AQI readings. In March 2014, Shanghai Environment Monitoring Center began to release real-time AQI readings, in addition to the standard average 24-hour readings. A real-time AQI reading can give Shanghai expats a better indication of when it is safe to go outside, and when a pollution mask should be worn.
  2. Shanghai adopted the V emission standards for all new vehicles from April 30th 2014. The V standard enforces lower nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions than the previous China IV emission standard.
  3. Shanghai continues to tighten its ban on heavy polluting vehicles, known as Yellow Label vehicles, of which 120,000 are still on Shanghai roads. Yellow label vehicles were banned from the Outer Ring Roads from July 1st 2014, having already been banned from Shanghai's inner ring roads. A complete ban including Shanghai’s suburban districts came into force in April 2015.
  4. Shanghai expanded the Central government's directive requiring 30 percent of all government vehicles be fueled by renewable energy to private delivery companies as well.
  5. The Shanghai government extended its subsidies for renewable energy 'green cars'. Each green car buyer will get a subsidy of RMB 40,000, plus a free Shanghai license plate, worth about RMB 70,000. They can also get the central government subsidy of RMB 60,000.
    The Shanghai Pudong government later announced a subsidy of its own of RMB 20,000 for new-energy cars.
  6. In May 2014, the Shanghai government announced a new plan to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from Shanghai factories.

Shanghai Introduces the Strictest Air Pollution Law in China

In September 2014, Shanghai introduced the strictest air pollution law in China, which went into effect on October 1st, 2014.

Personal penalties for company bosses of up to RMB 100,000 were introduced for the first time, in addition to maximum fines for companies rising from the previous RMB 100,000 to RMB 500,000.

The prohibition on burning straw and other bonfires was also extended to all of Shanghai, having previously only being enforced in certain areas.

Unfortunately the fine for farmers illegally burning straw, which causes about 10 percent of Shanghai air pollution, is set at just RMB 200, so not a strong deterrent.

In early October 2014, it was announced that a factory caught for illegally emitting air pollution would be the first to be charged under this new law and therefore levied a much higher fine.

Measures to Tackle Shanghai Air Pollution in 2015

  1. Shanghai’s environmental protection plan for 2015 to 2017 was launched In February 2015. The government intends to invest 100 billion yuan (US$16.1 billion) on more than 200 projects to reduce pollution. The goal is to reduce the average PM2.5 concentration to 48 ug/m3 by the end of 2017.
    Projects include:
  • 15 major state-owned enterprises will be required to upgrade their facilities to reduce carbon emissions.
  • 150 industrial companies will also upgrade their facilities
  • Major coal-burning power plants will be required to install equipment to remove nitrogen (denitrification).
  1. March 2015: Shanghai taxi drivers given a RMB1,300 subsidy to fit new three-way catalytic converters.
  2. September 2015: Shanghai eliminated the remaining 1,939 coal-consuming boilers and furnaces and all remaining yellow-label, heavily polluting vehicles.
  3. October 2015: Shanghai announced that of the remaining 8,000 diesel busses in Shanghai, 5,000 would be fitted with air filters by end of the year, and the remaining 3,000 would be taken out of service in 2016.
  4. November 2015: Shanghai government announces a series of measures, including closing of factories, to preemptively tackle pollution.
  5. From January 1st, 2016 Trucks that don't meet China IV emission standard will not be allowed in downtown Shanghai during the daytime. Unfortunately they will still be allowed after 8pm and before 7am.

Measures to Tackle Shanghai Air Pollution in 2016

  1. Vessels berthing at major docks, including Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Nantong and Suzhou, will be told to use fuel oil with a lower sulfur content. Ship emissions, which account for 8-10 percent of Shanghai’s PM2.5 pollutants, will be reduced by 10 percent for PM2.5 and 18 percent for sulfur oxide through this new program.
  2. A new development blueprint for Shanghai sent to the Shanghai People’s Congress for approval in early 2016 would see a new goal of reducing Shanghai PM2.5 yearly average to 42 micrograms per cubic meter by 2020. This is a further 15% reduction from its 2017 target of 49.6 micrograms per cubic meter.
  3. Based on the above blueprint Shanghai will also improve its air quality forecasting and lower thresholds for the city’s four-tier air-pollution alarm system so that anti-pollution measures will be taken more often and sooner.
  4. Authorities banned fireworks within the Shanghai Outer Ring Road. This ban was strictly enforced during the 2016 Chinese New Year celebrations, prior to which police officers knocked on many doors, including the author's, to inform people of the ban and require them to sign a pledge. 

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