The State Council’s Ten Measures Action Plan and regional efforts like those in Jing-Jin-Ji, Yangzte River, and Pearl River Deltas have reduced the severity and duration of China’s air pollution. But pollution levels must drop by two-thirds or more from their 2013 concentrations to reach the country’s Grade I PM2.5 and even further to meet the World Health Organization recommendations. An integrated approach to air quality management will help China’s policymakers meet their public health and greenhouse gas reduction targets more quickly and cost-effectively. Such an approach addresses the root causes of pollution—not just the end-of-pipe.

This paper updates RAP’s 2011 Climate-Friendly Air Quality Management manual. The 2011 manual provides a step-by-step approach to optimize reductions of criteria, hazardous, and greenhouse gas pollutants and integrate the environmental benefits of clean energy policies and energy efficiency into air quality plans. The steps and processes described in the 2011 manual remain valid, as are the models recommended to optimize co-control of pollution. However, since 2011, systematic, enterprise-wide approaches to reduce pollution discharges have matured and become mainstream.

Drawing on more recent experience, such as zero waste objectives in European Union member states, comprehensive energy and air quality planning in specific U.S. states, and industrial and power sector policies, Christopher James recommends how to adapt these policies to meet China’s public goals. Recommendations include:

  • Use air quality modeling and planning to value and include the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency;
  • Use RAP’s step-by-step energy saving templates in air quality plans;
  • Develop an information hub to showcase best practices;
  • Establish the use of energy management systems as a condition for environmental permits;
  • Encourage improved energy and environmental performance through competitions; and
  • Streamline information collection for air quality data and permits.

Such approaches are cost effective and yield co-benefits that include reduced water and waste discharges and lower energy bills for consumers and businesses. China has the legal and policy framework to use these approaches in its current air quality plans and permits. The processes and practices described in this paper will help China to reach its air quality targets more quickly, ensure that progress is independent of short-term economic factors, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.