Beijing’s Air Quality Continues to Show Significant Improvement
Official figures from the Chinese government show that Beijing's ongoing seven-year "war on pollution" has netted significantly improved air quality in the capital city, as the South China Morning Post reported.
Data released by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Ecology and Environment showed that concentrations of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 fell 14.3 percent in the first 11 months of 2019, according to Xinhua. That is the lowest level since an integrated air quality-monitoring network was launched in 2013.
When the air quality-monitoring network started in 2013, the average concentration of PM2.5 was 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2019, that number plummeted to an average concentration of 42 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter, a 53 per cent reduction in air pollution, according to the municipal ecology and environment bureau, as the South China Morning Post reported. The trend held for concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and concentrations of the larger PM10 pollution as well.
Those numbers back up earlier findings from the Swiss firm IQAir AirVisual, which installed sensors on the U.S. embassy in Beijing. That report said Beijing's concentrations of fine particulate matter had fallen to its lowest levels since record keeping began in 2008, as The Washington Post reported. Those improvements mean the Chinese capital may soon be removed from the list of the 200 most polluted cities in the world.
The pollution levels are still far higher than what is considered healthy. The 2019 average concentration of PM2.5 in Beijing of 42 micrograms per cubic meter was still above the China's national air quality standard of 35, and far beyond the World Health Organization's recommended upper limit of 10, according to the South China Morning Post.
And yet, the rapid and drastic improvement is being touted for what is possible when government policies push for a cleaner environment.
"No other city or region on the planet has achieved such a feat," said Joyce Msuya, the deputy executive director of the UN's environment program, as the South China Morning Post reported. She added that the accomplishment was the result of "an enormous investment of time, resources and political will."
A March report from Msuya's department at the UN looked at 20 years of pollution data from 1998 to 2017. It found that controls on coal-fired boilers, the use of cleaner fuels in residential sectors, and tighter regulations on industry were the three most important measures to improving Beijing's air quality, according to the South China Morning Post.
While Beijing's air has shown significant and rapid improvement, other areas of China are heading in the opposite direction as other provinces have sought to spur growth during an economic slowdown, according to Lauri Myllyvirta of Greenpeace, as The Washington Post reported.
Myllyvirta told The Washington Post that nitrogen oxide emissions went up in northern China's industrial belt, which accompanied a growth in cement and steel production to meet the demand of government-funded construction.
"Old-fashioned smokestack industries are increasing in share and importance" in regions such as Hebei province, said Myllyvirta, as The Washington Post reported. "The pressure to hit GDP targets in the short term is a big part of it."
In Beijing, the war on pollution has meant authorities shuttered all coal-fired plants, encouraged residents to replace coal-fired boilers with natural gas and electricity, and invested in electric vehicles, as the South China Morning Post reported.
That action has also led to a drop in sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere. It fell 85 percent from 28 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013 to 4 in 2019, according the South China Morning Post.
However, while Beijing's air quality is improving, some worry that the Chinese government will invest in environmentally deleterious industries abroad in poorer, developing markets to supply its worldwide infrastructure projects, as the The Washington Post reported.
For example, China has struck deals to build hundreds of coal-fired power plants across developing markets from Pakistan to the Philippines.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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