A friend working in Beijing wrote this a few days ago:
With less than 1 meter visibility, my dog was disappearing from the haze when I took it for a walk. It seems like I was only holding the leash in the air. Now I stay indoor all day long. Last month, the government issued a prevention and control guideline about reducing haze in the community; they suggest avoiding pan-frying or deep-frying during serious haze pollution. Does it really help??
It is a severe public health issue. Berkeley Earth, a non-profit climate research organization, estimates that air pollution in China causes the death of about 4,400 people per day in China.
By now it is pretty clear that air pollution is a serious concern for residents of Beijing, Shanghai, and many other Chinese cities. The central government is going after the main sources of haze — car exhaust, industrial emissions, construction dust, garbage incineration, etc.
One approach is the cap-and-trade program on carbon. It was introduced in 2013 in the form of a pilot program. I remember Shenzhen city, and Guangdong in general, was among the first to apply it.
There are now quotas (and market prices) for the amount of pollution that companies can emit. Companies can buy and sell the right to consume power and fossil fuels. This type of program was set up in Europe for a while. It is not a bad first step. But it won’t solve the problem by itself.
One serious issue is the unwillingness of local governments, who have an incentive to grow their industrial base, to enforce Beijing’s regulations.
Another issue is the lack of technical support for businesses that want to be more eco-friendly. Many things can be done to “go green” without heavy investments, but Chinese manufacturers just aren’t aware of them.
Some companies, naturally, are pursuing this trend as a business opportunity. For example, the world’s largest dust screening network will be built in Hebei this year, for a total length of 17 km and height of up to 23 meters.
And this is nothing new. A NHK documentary shot in 2010 described the “Green Business War” between Korean and Japanese companies on the Chinese market.
As always, Chinese factories will look for technologies that help them solve their issues. That can work great, but they tend to ignore all the little things they can do, by changing their processes and their habits, to reduce their environmental impact.
If you are interested in the topic of air pollution, I’d suggest reading this white paper written by Collective Responsibility.