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China: Every day less polluted

In four years, the Asian giant has achieved an unprecedented feat: to reduce its pollution levels by 32%

China: Every day less polluted

Leer en español: ¡Miren a China! Cada día está menos contaminada

When China bet on the development of its economy, it did so quickly and unstoppably. Pushed by the big industries, it became one of the main powers of the world. However, with the development of its economy, driven by factories such as coal, metal or cement, it also faced a gradual deterioration of air quality to the point that its levels became detrimental to the health of citizens.

This reached a breaking point in 2013, when the Quality in the Air index registered 800 contamination points in a meter prepared to signal up to 500. In the northeast of the country, concentrations higher than 1,200 were reached. A level that multiplied by 120 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization.

As a result of this, on March 4, 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang declared war on pollution. Three years later, according to The New York Times, the figures not only show that it fulfilled its promise, but it did it in an unprecedented way: cities have reduced the concentration of fine particles in the air by 32% in just four years .

"There are no examples of a country that has achieved such a rapid reduction in air pollution. It's extraordinary, "Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, told AFP.

The national air quality plan

In March 2014, a national air quality plan was announced, which determined a series of measures to reduce the concentration of pollution in all urban areas between 10% and 25% (in the case of Beijing). fine particles.

For this, the closing of factories and power plants that work with coal were ordered in the most polluted cities; some of the existing ones were forced to reduce their emissions when replacing with natural gas. In addition, coal mines were closed and the production capacity of iron and steel was reduced.

In addition, the ministry of environmental protection established the elimination of coal heaters that houses and businesses used to warm up in winter, although it did not provide all replacements in a timely manner. With this measure, a reduction of 15% of pollution levels in the winter was marked. Similarly, in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the number of cars on the streets was restricted.

Thus, China achieved that in record time most of the regions reached the objectives and even surpassed them in an amazing way, as in the case of Hebei, which managed to reduce its concentration by 39%.

"These four years show that things can change, even quickly, thanks to political will," Greenstone said.
These improvements, according to a study by The New York Times, would imply an improvement in the life expectancy of 204 prefectures in an increase in life expectancy of 2.4 years.

A long way to go

"Qualifying China as a green economy would be an exaggeration, but it is true that the country and its government have seen the potential of high technology and a large part of the resources are destined to this field (...). Focusing on new technologies instead of metal or cement will undoubtedly have a very positive environmental impact, "said Chang Longwei, an economist for El Confidencial.

The pollution in the air in China, even with the incredible reductions, multiplies almost six times the optimal level recommended by the WHO. Similarly, the mayor of Beijing, Chen Jining, said that continuing to improve from the current situation will be "enormously complicated." In addition, it is important to note that the measures have focused on reducing the percentage of particles in the air, but this is not the only element in the pollution.

However, the government continues to implement measures to protect the environment. It is worth remembering that on January 1 of this year. The importation of 24 categories of solid waste was banned and the prime minister assured that they seek to prohibit foreign garbage from entering the Asian giant.

What can the world learn?

The rapid results of China can not be ignored. It is important to bear in mind that these results were obtained through specific measures determined by a government that has decided to give a primordial space to the environment in its government plan.

Moreover, it is important to note that China decided not to limit itself to specific commitments such as the Paris Agreement, but instead implemented the measures on its own, hoping to surpass those stipulated in the agreement.

This implied that, due to the critical situation, China did not expect market-friendly solutions or determinations with controlled and foreseeable effects. In contrast, the Asian country assumed great economic and social costs to obtain quick results, declaring the war on coal and betting on new technologies. In the same way, he turned the fight against pollution into a banner in his new economic and international policies. However, for that to become a long-term mechanism, it must begin to take into account the social consequences and global economic dynamics.

 

Latin American Post | Dayana Martínez
Translated from "¡Miren a China! Cada día está menos contaminada" 

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