Beijing’s January 13, 2013 air pollution episode drew international media attention when PM2.5 levels spiked to 1000 ug/m3—almost 30 times the standard in the US, and well above the 300 ug/m3 threshold the China Air Quality Index considers “heavily polluted.” At the same time, all of eastern China was affected by a pervasive haze that lasted for several days. In response, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and local Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPBs) are exploring opportunities to supplement existing pollution controls during severe air pollution episodes. In mid-March, RAP principal Christopher James discussed international best practices in air pollution episode planning with staff and management at several EPBs. Drawing on similar experiences in the US, Mr. James highlighted the role that both EPBs and businesses must play in reducing the length and severity of air pollution episodes. He emphasized the importance of existing control measures and the use of episode planning to identify additional measures that can be taken when pollution levels reach a pre-established threshold.
In December 2012, China established its first ambient concentration targets for PM2.5, requiring key regions, including Beijing, to reduce concentrations by 5% by 2015. In addition to developing plans for meeting this target, local EPBs are developing episode plans to address spikes in concentration like the one experienced in Beijing in January.
Mr. James met with representatives from the Jiangsu Academy of Environmental Planning, the Suzhou Environmental Protection Bureau, and the Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau. He also presented episode planning recommendations at the Clean Air Asia 9th China City Air Quality Management Workshop on Regional Air Quality Management and Collaboration.
China.org covered the Beijing Municipal EPB’s air quality forum, which included a presentation by Catherine Witherspoon, former executive officer of the California Air Resource Board.