Air pollution in China: Scientific and Public Policy Challenges

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Tong Zhu, Peking University, Beijing, China
Sever air pollution in China has in recent years caused intensive public, media and governmental attention. Many questions need to be answered about the air pollution in China, such as how harmful is the air pollution, especially PM2.5? Why suddenly so many reports about sever air pollution, is the air in China getting more polluted? How to design a policy that can control the air pollution most efficiently?

After updated the national Ambient Air Quality Standards in 2012 and included PM2.5 as one of the critical air pollutants, in 2013, Chinese central government released for the first time the “Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan”. The plan has set goals to reduce annual mean concentration of PM2.5 up to 25% in 2017 in different regions in China. If the ambitious goals were achieved, this could be the most significant air pollution reduction in such a short time that affects so many people in human history.

To achieve these goals, however, there are enormous scientific and public policy challenges to deal with. For example:

  1. Identify the key components, size fraction of PM that have the largest health effects; and identify the sources of PM that has the most harmful effects on human health and ecosystem.

  2. Reduce the uncertainty in health risk assessment.

  3. Understand complicate chemical transformation processes in air pollution formation with intensive emissions from industry, power plant, vehicles, agriculture.

  4. Interactions between air pollution, PBL, and atmospheric circulation at different scales.

  5. The accountability, feasibility, effectiveness, and efficiency of air pollution control policies.

  6. Integrate multi-pollutant control and achieve co-benefit with climate and energy policy.

  7. Regional coordinated air pollution control.

The largest challenge in China for air pollution control remains how to strength the link between science and policy.