Air pollution is a global health crisis, and China's pollution problem is particularly severe: in 2017 alone, nearly a million deaths were attributed to pollution.
China's "ultra-low emissions" policy targeted the sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter (fine airborne particles) that have been driving the country's air pollution crisis. The policy set new, stringent standards for coal-fired power plants, and it had an ambitious timeline: 71% of existing plants needed to meet the new standards by 2020.
To figure out how much difference the policy has made, a group of economists and environmental scientists in China and the UK built and analyzed a massive database of emissions measurements. They drew on an official Chinese government network of monitoring systems that track emissions across the country. Power plants above a certain size in China are required to install emissions monitoring equipment for the network. This meant the researchers could access hourly measurements from thousands of power plants between 2014 and 2017.
These measurements showed a dramatic decrease in all three pollutants at coal power plants: sulphur dioxide emissions had dropped by 75%, nitrous oxides by 76%, and particulates by a dramatic 83%.
It shows what can be done if the right incentives are in place. Air pollution is a massive global problem, especially for large cities. It's not just deaths but also astronomical health bills and unemployment that have to be dealt with before people die. In many countries, the taxpayers have to foot the bill for this.
#china How well has China’s ultra low-emissions policy worked?
Drops of over 70% in just three years leaves the country with much cleaner air.