To retain blue skies, China must optimize the industrial structure
This winter people are impressed with continuous blue skies, although on around 30 percent of the days, favorable weather conditions played a role.

“The achievement in fighting air pollution is 70 percent human effort and 30 percent good weather conditions,” Huang Runqiu, a CPPCC member and vice minister of Environmental Protection told the media on March 10, during “two sessions” period. He noted that for the next three years, radical changes to industrial structure must happen, or “fundamentally fighting air pollution” would be nothing but hollow words.

The results of efforts to combat air pollution has been included in the year's government work report: major regions saw PM2.5 reduction of over 30 percent, with the number of heavily polluted days in major cities cut down by a half. Over the past five years, Beijing has seen PM2.5 reduction of 34.3 percent. Especially this winter, there have been continuous blue skies in Beijing.

In a bid to address air pollution in Beijing, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has been put in a position to call the shots in recent years. Even the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region's economic indicators would give way to endeavors to fight air pollution. From last April, China embarked on a campaign to replace coal heating with gas in 26 cities which was seen as a major cause of the severe pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. On the other hand, local governments of 28 cities were put under pressure to toe the line by strengthening supervision and inspection.

However, Huang pointed out, the current measures are not radical enough to bring a “qualitative change.” Based on the estimates, Beijing's good air should be attributed to 70 percent human effort and 30 percent favorable weather conditions. Among the 338 prefecture-level cities in China, less than one-third of them enjoy air quality that meets target. Although the 28 cities aforementioned merely occupies three percent of national territory area, they are now discharging 10 percent of the whole country's emission of sulfur dioxide and 15 percent of nitrogen oxide.

For the world, air pollution is not anything new. For example, London's killer fog in 1952 had shocked the world and they had used nearly 30 years to gain the final success. Although China remains at the primary stage, it could accumulate experiences after implementation of a series of measures. “Now, there are more blue skies, so (we're) on the right track.”

Huang Runqiu proposed to optimize the industrial and energy structure, ending its reliance on coal. The consumption of coal per square meter in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is five to six times the national standard; it's a necessity to bring down the total volume consumed in major areas. Huang also proposed to optimize the traffic structure. In China, roads and heavy duty trucks are mainly used for cargo transportation now. It's suggested transportation by railways should be more often used to put a control on excessive emission of lorries.

“Only when the public begins to pursue a green life, the blue skies could stay for long,” Huang concluded. 

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