In the first half of December 2013, a large-scale-smog occurred in eastern China, which affected twenty-five provinces and more than 100 cities. Data from a popular online shopping website shows that in 2013, customers have spent 870 million Yuan on buying masks, air purification machines, and indoor trackmills. The top five cities and provinces that bought the most masks were Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Shanghai.
China has been taxing air pollution fees for more than thirty years, and the earliest policy in this area was carried out in 1982. According to Hu Jing, professor from the Chinese University of Politics and Law, the legal framework on regulating air pollution is relatively comprehensive and does not need much modification. “The most necessary change is to increase the emission standard and to practice strict implementation,” said Hu.
Many cities have been controlling emissions by restricting the number of cars on the road. On December 15, 2013, Tianjin announced that starting December 16, 2013, the number of vans in the city would be capped. Data shows that motor vehicle emission is the major type of pollution in Tianjin, accounting for 16% of particulate matter in the air. Other than Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, other major cities in China have also been discussing charging car emission fees from drivers. In September 2013, Shenzhen held a seminar to discuss charging emission fees.
Hu Jing said that even though motor vehicles are the major source of air pollution, restricting the number of cars would not eliminate smog. “Increasing the quality of gas and adopting stricter emission standards are more important and effective compared with rigid policies on capping the number of vehicles.
Gao Lihong, professor from the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law told the reporter that smog was a complicated and cumulative problem. “The current environmental laws in China are not sufficient for systematic and comprehensive regulation. Moreover, policy implementation is another challenging issue.” According to Gao, pollution from transportation is not an isolated issue, and improving the quality of the environment requires efforts in urban planning, transportation planning, public transit construction, renewable energy use and road infrastructure.
What actions should the Chinese government take to tackle smog?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.
The original article, published in Chinese, can be found here.