In China, pollution kills more than 1.5 million people a year — or about 4,400 people every day. The efforts the country makes now will have an immediate effect on their citizen’s health and that of other countries in the region.

Tian en Men square is shrouded by thick smog, making daytime look like dusk. Image: China’s new plan for tackling air pollution (published on July 3) is more detailed and covers more cities than the one which expired at the end of 2017—but it does not set tougher targets than those already in place. The expiring action plan The earlier Air Pollution Action Plan , released in September 2013, may have been China’s most influential environmental policy of the past five years. It helped China to make significant improvements to air quality by setting PM2.5 targets for key regions, requiring significant reductions between 2013 and 2017—of 15 per cent in the Pearl River Delta, and of 33 per cent in Beijing. In Beijing this meant reducing PM2.5 levels from 89.5µg/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre) down to 60. To do so, Beijing closed its coal-fired power stations , and banned people in surrounding areas from burning coal for heat . These measures were costly and controversial, but they enabled the city to achieve an annual average PM2.5 level of 58µg/m³—a drop of 35 per cent. Other cities and provinces also had to act. In the end, China’s three biggest city […]

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