A new analysis has shown that pollution levels have declined in China’s most populated regions over the past four years, as China celebrates its “war against polluting” anniversary.
On average, cities have reduced concentrations of fine particles by 32 percent. Fine particulates are widely considered to be the most dangerous form of air pollution. This analysis is based on data from more 200 government monitors across the country.
Professor Michael Greenstone at the University of Chicago and director of EPIC’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC), says that the data are in: China is winning the war against pollution. China will see dramatic improvements in its overall health insurance for expats in China, including longer lives, by winning this war.
The greatest declines were seen in the most populous cities:
China reduced air pollution by 35%
Shijiazhuang is the capital of Hebei Province.
Baoding, China’s most polluted urban area as of 2015, has reduced pollution by 38 percent
Beijing cut air pollution by 35 percent; Shijiazhuang, the Hebei Province’s capital city, by 39 percent; and Baoding, China’s most polluted city as of 2015, cut pollution by 38 percent.
These reductions would mean that residents in China will live an average of 2.4 more years if they continue to make these cuts. People living in Beijing, which has around 20 million people, would live an average of 3.3 years longer. Those in Shijiazhuang, Baoding, and Baoding, would have an additional 5.3 and 4.5 years, respectively. This improvement in life expectancy will be felt by all ages, not only the elderly.
This analysis is the first of a series that will highlight pollution problems and solutions globally. It draws from the Air Quality Life Index method, which EPIC released last year and will release fully in the coming months.
The index, which shows how much life expectancy communities could gain if their pollution levels are brought in line with World Health Organization standards or national standards, is based on two studies that convert PM2.5 concentrations into their effect on lifespans.
Notably, although China has shown a significant improvement in its air pollution levels, they still exceed the global and national standards as demonstrated by the AQLI. In the areas that data is available, bringing the country into compliance would increase the average life expectancy by 1.7 years. Instead, compliance with WHO standards would result in 4.1 years.
Greenstone states that China has taken “aggressive, and sometimes extraordinary” measures to reduce pollution. These include the prohibition of new coal-fired power stations in polluted areas and the physical removal of coal boilers from homes and businesses.
This approach has had its fair share of cost on the Chinese economy, as it relies heavily on specific actions rather than more efficient market-based mechanism. Market-based regulatory approaches, such as pollution taxes and cap and trade markets for pollution, offer great opportunities to help meet the urgent need for rapid economic growth.