Air pollution control provides chance for EU-China cooperation

China has made huge economic and social progress, but the effects on the environment must be confronted, explains Zhou Shengxian.

By Zhou Shengxian

21 Mar 2014

Human life is dependent on nature, and protecting the environment should be a precondition for sustainable human development. Since embarking on reform and opening up in the late 1970s, China has made remarkable progress in terms of economic and social development.

This has not, however, been without high environmental costs, due to wasteful models of development and inappropriate industrial structures.

In recent years, China has suffered heavy smog in many parts of the country, causing widespread concern. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the prevention and control of air pollution, making it a priority of our efforts to ensure and improve living conditions.

The government has vowed to engage in a forceful and long-term battle against air pollution by increasing investment and policy efforts. In September 2013, the state council issued an 'Air pollution prevention action plan', which set out '10 air rules': 10 articles and 35 measures covering, among others, multi-pollutant control, the adjustment of industrial structures, the optimisation of energy structures, the establishment of regional cooperation mechanisms, adequate responses to cases of heavy air pollution, and citizen mobilisation.

"We are making great efforts to strengthen air pollution prevention and to protect and enhance the natural beauty of our country"

Fine particle matter (PM) is the primary target of prevention measures, a choice which benefits from popular support. In February this year, the state council issued 22 complementary policy measures to the '10 air rules'.

Environmental sectors and local governments have been responsive, setting targets, building mechanisms and strengthening regulation on air pollution, marking a step forward towards effective air pollution control.

Taking sober stock of the status quo, and looking towards a better future, the Chinese government has declared war on pollution. While focusing on the mega-cities and regions which suffer frequent smog, the potential breakthrough for environmental governance is the focus on fine PM 2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers) and PM 10.

In order to succeed, we need to concentrate on industrial structures, energy efficiency, carbon emissions, dust and other key areas, and improve coordination between government, the private sector and public participation through regional networks for prevention and control.

In 2014, China aims to deactivate 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces, and promote the desulfurisation of coal-fired power plants by 15 million kilowatts, denitrification by 130 million kilowatts and dust transformation by 180 million kilowatts. Additionally, six million old cars will be taken off the road.

Environmental and development issues are a challenge to all the mankind today. China and the EU have long been engaged in multi-level cooperation in the fields of sustainable production and consumption, biodiversity conservation, hazardous waste disposal and management, emergency response mechanisms for watershed pollution, and environmental governance. The joint project on 'PM 2.5 and air quality control implementation' was a result of such cooperation, providing strong impetus to China's implementation of the '10 air rules'.

Currently, we are making great efforts to strengthen air pollution prevention and to protect and enhance the natural beauty of our country. This has been a chance for China and the EU to deepen our cooperation on environmental issues. Hopefully, further cooperation on air pollution control and in other key areas will play an important role in deepening the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

Share this page