Four years after declaring war on air pollution, China is winning. And at a record pace. If the current declines in pollution continue at the same rate, residents could see significant improvements to their health and lifespans extended by months or years.
So how did China get here?
In 2014, China released a national air quality action plan that required all urban areas to reduce concentrations of fine particulate matter pollution by at least 10 percent, or even more in some cities. Beijing, which was required to reduce pollution by 25 percent, set aside an incredible $120 billion just for that purpose alone.
To achieve these targets, China banned new coal-fired power plants in the most polluted regions of the country, including Beijing. Existing plants were given the choice to reduce their emissions or the coal would be replaced with natural gas. Larger cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou restricted the number of cars on the road. The country also shut down coal mines.
Of course, air pollution levels in China still surpass World Health Organization recommendations for what is considered safe. But progress is being made, especially in Beijing.
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