New threshold

Beijing has raised the new threshold for its highest air pollution warning in February, two months after blasting AQI (daily average air quality index) triggered the city’s first “red alert”. The first “red alert” was issued when the AQI was forecasted to exceed 200 for at least three days, a US criterion “very unhealthy”.

After the implementation of new threshold, the “red alert” will be issued only when AQI is forecasted to exceed 200 for four days, 300 for two days or 500 for a day, according to Beijing’s environmental protection bureau. The new criteria is designed to standardize pollution alerts across Beijing, the neighboring port city of Tianjin and four cities in the surrounding Hebei province, Xinhua reported.

Stubborn Problem

Statistically, less than 50 percent (49.75%) of Beijing’s AQI has been under 100 since 2014, which unveils that residents have been frequently exposed to unhealthy air pollution for more than half of the numbers of the days in a year. Thereinto, PM2.5 has undoubtedly become the primary source of pollution (356 in 750 observations), followed by 8-hour-Ozone (174) which highly occurs in summer.

Beijing AQI Calendar

Good - Moderate - Unhealthy for sensitive groups - Unhealthy - Very Unhealthy - Hazardous

Data Source: Ministry of Environment Protection of People’s Republic of China

Beijing frequently portrays near the top of the list of China’s most polluted cities for emissions from vehicles and heavy industry combined in surroundings with weather conditions to raise pollution levels. The worst outbreak tends to coincide with low wind climate.

Although the authorities in Beijing were about to develop a network of ventilation “corridors” to help tackle the notorious air pollution, as well as the MEP has driven the practice of air pollution contingency plan, the most urgent problem is the adjustment of the structural of energy industry especially in neighboring area.

Soiled development

Last year, 3.87bn tonnes of coal was dug up by Chinese miners. The total amount is more than enough to be supplied for following massive consuming countries for a year– the United States, India, the European Union and Russia.

A report from China Academician Speech indicated that the correlation coefficient between China’s coal consumption and GDP was over 0.5 between 1953 to 2010 and reached 0.9 between 2000 to 2005, which statistically revealed that China economic development was highly contributed to massive coal consumption. The contribution rate of coal production and primary coal consumption industry for GDP total amount and increment was 15% and 18%.

In 2012, the total China's coal consumption was about 49% of total world coal consumption (3.8 and 7.7GT). In 2014, China’s consumption of coal doubled in the decade, reaching more than four billion tonnes a year. For years, total coal consumption has accounted for more than 60% of total energy consumption in China.

China total energy consumption by source

Natural gas - Hydro Nuclear and Wind power - Petroleum - Coal - Total

Data Source: China’s National Bureau of Statistics

According to a report from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), coal use fell 3.7% last year compared to 2014 levels,. The drop follows a 2.9% decrease in 2014. However, there are widespread doubts over the accuracy of official statistics in China, which critics say can be subject to political manipulation,reported by The Guardian.

Top 1 Emitter

The latest study co-authored by the world-renowned economist Lord Stern suggested that carbon emissions may have already peaked in China, as the result of recent worldwide economic slowdown combined with the low-carbon path that China government chased as well as the finesse to remit domestic air pollution .

If the trend keep the same path, it would be a epochal success from global efforts to deal with carbon emissions and mitigate the climate change in condition that China has approached the peak of emissions, said Fergus Green, lead author of the report from the LSE.

CO2 emission of top 10 economies

Data Source: World Bank database

However, China has already become the greatest carbon emitter among the world and surpass the US about a decade ago, making itself as the most wanted target of emission reduction. Last December, the world’s second biggest economy and top emitter has agreed that its carbon emissions should peak by 2030 on COP21.

Research from climate scientists have indicated that if global warming is to be kept under 2C limit agreed worldwide as being the point of no return, the carbon budget is mere half as big. It means that fossil fuel combustion should be cut at an even faster rate than predicted in order to restrain global warming to the deal of limit on Paris.

The rapid global development is highly relevant to fossil fuels that drive the expansion of agriculture, the revolution of industries and the growth of economy while at a cost of 14cms of sea level rise and so far 1C of temperature rise. The 2C limit agreed on Climate Change summit was based on the crucial fact that sea levels would rise high enough to submerge several island states if the world reaches such planetary temperature.

Please slightly drag China out of the pie chart,
if you think it emited too much in 2014. Well, the
same to the others.

Booming of facilities

Last year, China has poured investment on large scale into renewable energy industries. Statistically, the world total investment of clean energy in 2012 was $268.7 billion, five times as much as 2004 .Among them, China invested in clean energy at a record of $67.7 billion and took the lead of global clean energy investment.

China wind power installment

Data Source: China industrial information network

In 2014, the total installed capacity of national renewable energy reached 440.37 million kilowatts, accounted for more than 30% of all electricity installed capacity. It could generate more electricity than all the power stations in Indonesia.

Energy Internet

The “Internet plus initiative” was cited as the new strategy to speed up, transform and innovate including the energy industry from the last year’s report on government work, which is the combination of Internet technology, renewable energy technology and electric system.

The deterioration of environment and urgent structural reform of energy industry has driven China to focus on developing energy Internet with the core of renewable energy. In the long term, highly depended on massive fossil fuel consumption is contrary to the concept of sustainable development and would merely slow down the economy.

Dangerous game

It could be a formidable path to develop new energy generation in China, although it has abundant natural resource. Unbalanced distribution, limited sites selection and natural disaster would become the major problem for the government to deal with. Recently, the policy has spurred the installation of large scale new energy facilities owing to the COP 21 and agreed carbon emission reduction deal. However, the energy consumption of China has stepped in the age of moderate growth, which means that it’s difficult to see increment at 5% or over 100 million per year.


The 195-nation U.N. climate summit concluded with delegates adopting the Paris Agreement, the first-ever global climate deal of this sweep and ambition. The long-term goal is to make sure the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. More importantly, it has set national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years.

Admittedly, China has played an important role to promote the success of the conference and the ambitious INDC(Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) was widely accepted. However, the task for China to successfully carry out low carbon transition is arduous and urgent.

A clean path

The INDC has suggested that China promises to reach the CO2 emissions peak around 2030 and try to reach peak as soon as possible; The amount of CO2 emission per unit of GDP is 60%-65% lower than 2005; Non-fossil fuels energy accounts for 20% of primary energy consumption and forest volume would be increased to 4.5 bn cubic meters than 2005.

However, it’s quite difficult to actualize these goals. For example, the target for non-fossil fuels to reach 20% as the primary energy consumption is doubtful that according to the measurement by Brookings Institution, it means that the amount is close to the total annual power generation of US,said Feng Gao, MFA special representative for COP 21 negotiations.

Current statistics suggests that China is on track to far surpass its Paris climate targets, which is great news for everyone,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior global campaigner on coal for Greenpeace. “However, the trend is not moving as fast as it could.”The Guardian reported

A human resources and social security ministry official said at a press briefing that China is about to lay off about 1.8 million workers in the steel and coal industries as well as the State Council has also announced plans to reduce by 60% the amount of “major pollutants” coming from its coal-fired power plants by 2020.

INDCs on carbon emission reduction by 2030

Data Source: United nations conference on climate change-COP21/CMP11
The ratio of emission reduction was compared to the current situation.

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