Pollution 'serious' despite improvements

Tian Shengjie
Yan Gang, president of the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, tells conference that the concentration of PM2.5 had declined gradually but pollution was still serious.
Tian Shengjie
Pollution 'serious' despite improvements
Tian Shengjie

An official gives a talk during the IE expo China Environmental Technology Conference 2020 on Wednesday.

The concentration of PM2.5 has declined gradually during the 13th Five-Year Plan which began in 2016 but pollution in China is still serious, Yan Gang, president of the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, told a conference on Wednesday.

This year’s IE expo China Environmental Technology Conference was looking forward to the “14th Five-Year Plan,” which will begin in 2021.

Yan said many environmental issues had been solved since 2016.

For example, China established the world's largest clean coal power generation system last year. The capacity of the coal power generators with ultra-low emissions in China reached 890 million kilowatts, over 83 percent of the total capacity of coal-powered generators, Yan said. There were 230,000 coal-based boilers that had ceased working and the coal consumption ratio had declined from 63 percent in 2015 to 57.7 percent in 2019.

He added 2,513 areas with black and odorous water had been cleaned over the five years, accounting for 86.7 percent.

However, Yan admitted that three main ecological problems hadn’t changed. 

Firstly, the chemical industry, road haulage and coal are still the main industry construction, cargo transportation and energy consumption, respectively. Those are more likely to cause pollution. 

Secondly, the resource environmental bearing capacity has still been reached or nearly reaches its affordability standard limit in some areas in China. 

Thirdly, environmental accidents, such as those leading to large pollutant emission, still happened often.

Pollution 'serious' despite improvements

Air pollution is still a problem for China, the conference was told.

"Some problems have been eased but still exist, especially air pollution,” Yan said.

From 2016 to 2019, the PM2.5 concentration and the number of cities that exceed the standard for PM2.5 had decreased gradually but PM2.5 is still the main pollutant, which is the cause for 80 percent of days marked with heavy air pollution last year.

There are over 300 cities, about 47 percent, in China exceeding the standard including Beijing, Tianjing and cities in Hebei Province. And PM2.5 concentration in 51 cities is 50 percent higher than China’s standard limit, which is looser than the World Health Organization’s.

In China’s standard, the concentration of PM2.5 should be lower than 36 micrograms per cubic meter, but in WHO’s standard, it should be less than 10 micrograms.

As the second main air pollutant, ozone pollution had increased gradually. The percentage of polluted days caused by O3 rose from 12.5 percent in 2015 to 41.7 percent last year, Yan said.

There were 103 cities with excess O3 (over 100 micrograms per cubic meter) last year but only 23 cities in 2015, Yan said. Polluted days can often be seen during April and September.

To solve those problems, the focus will be on reducing the emission of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds for the decline of the concentration of the PM2.5 and O3 from 2021 to 2025, Yan said.

Sun Minghua, senior vice president of SUEZ NWS Asia, a representative of environmental management companies, said they will pay more attention to the reuse of substances in emissions to support the country's environmental protection plan.

The government will also focus on rail and water transport and the development of new-energy vehicles, Yan said, adding that about 24 million vehicles with a large amount of exhaust emissions had gone out of use and the number of NEVs is expected to reach 5 million during the 14th Five-Year Plan.

Some ecological management companies said although they were affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the “14th Five-Year Plan” shows there are many opportunities for them to develop technology for environmental protection and eco-industrial parks.

Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at Industrial Bank Co, said energy storage, which could let people use solar energy during a cloudy day, deserved attention.

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