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Reducing China’s Urban Air Pollution with Transport Solutions at Beijing Workshop

WRI China Sustainable Cities and Transport Program Director Daizong Liu presents at the training in Beijing. Photo by Shiyong Qiu/WRI

BEIJING, CHINA (April 13, 2018) – In 2015, more than half of the Chinese population was exposed to unhealthy air, and around1 million premature deaths were attributed to outdoor pollution. A key contributor to harmful air pollution is the transport sector. In some Chinese cities, motor vehicles are the primary sources of fine particle pollution, accounting for 20-40 percent.

In April 2018, WRI China organized a training on urban transport emissions reduction in Beijing. The training consisted of four sections: transport emissions reduction strategies, transport policy health impact analysis, ship emissions control and shared mobility. Over 20 representatives of local government agencies, enterprises and research institutes from Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Qingdao and Hangzhou attended the event.

Transport Emissions Reduction Strategies

Transport emissions inventories and calculating their associated social impact costs are prerequisite for making transport emissions reduction strategies. To make this process a bit easier, WRI developed a simple methodology to assist cities in understanding their local transport emissions inventory, social impact, data quality and the ecological efficiency of the transport system. WRI applied the methodology in Chengdu, providing recommendations to Chengdu’s government on methods to reduce transport-related emissions. “WRI’s research on low-carbon development and capacity building boosts Chengdu’s sustainable development. The car policy research helps us understand the urgency to control car ownership, and the policy recommendations provide reference for future transport demand management policies,” said Deputy Director-General of Chengdu Development and Reform Commission Madam Zhu Xiaowen.

At the training, WRI China experts introduced the methodology and WRI China Sustainable Cities Program Director Daizong Liu summarized several successful international transport emissions reduction measures, including the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and Measure R Plan of United States, LEZ/CC of London and Stockholm, and new energy vehicles. Participants showed great interests in these measures and expressed their willingness to consider them in future policymaking processes.

Transport Policy Health Impact Analysis

To help governments make evidence-based and people-oriented decisions, WRI, together with partners from the transportation, environmental protection, public health and social economy sectors, have developed a model to evaluate the health impacts of low-emission zones in 2017. The model and findings were presented at the training, aiming to increase awareness of the health impacts of transport policies, support decision-making from a public health perspective and promote more sustainable transport policies in Chinese cities.

“This marks the first effort in China to scientifically quantify the public health benefits of transport policies,” said WRI China Research Associate Ying Wang, “Based on our model, Beijing’s newly implemented low-emission zone will reduce inpatient numbers by 514 and avoid 43 deaths each year, leading to an annual cost savings of $42 million. The long-term benefit of the low-emission zone will be much more significant, however, since the lasting impact of air pollution on public health is usually 8 to 10 times that of the short term.”

Ship Emissions Control

While maritime emissions represent a substantial share of total urban emissions in many port cities, they have often been overlooked by city governments. Dedicated to reducing these emissions in Chinese cities, WRI China is promoting low-emission zones in costal urban areas.

To raise awareness of maritime emissions, WRI China Research Associate Su Song presented the impacts on health and ecosystems, the impact assessment toolkit, and pollution control solutions, seeking to scale efforts to maritime stakeholders and port cities. “In Chinese coastal cities, ships contribute more than 8 percent and 11 percent of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, respectively. It is time to cut maritime pollution,” she said. Su proposed four measures for emissions control, including domestic emission control areas, encouraging cleaner on-shore power, switching ships to cleaner fuels and establishing a connection between seaports and railways.

Shared Mobility

Bike sharing has proliferated around the world, benefitting tremendously from mobile technology and big data analysis. To better understand the positive effects of cycling on travel structure, urban environment, quality of life, emission reduction, etc., WRI China partnered with Mobike, the world’s first cashless and station-free bike sharing system, to develop a report on how cycling changes cities. Deputy Director of Mobike Policy Research Institute Xiang Tian was invited to share the results at the training. “As of December 2017, Mobike users had collectively cycled over 18.2 billion kilometers, the equivalent of avoiding 4.4 milliontonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, and worth more than $194 million in economic benefits,” Xiang said. “We will continue our partnership with WRI to scientifically analyze our environmental impacts and contribute to a sustainable future.”

“Transport emissions reduction should be the key focus for Chinese cities to address the air pollution problem,” said WRI China Country Director Lailai Li at the end of the workshop. “However, there are several challenges in this area, including the conflicts between increasing travel demand and emissions reduction, the uncertainty in advanced transport technology, and the contradiction between industry development and urban management.”


WRI China conducts first-hand research, policy solutions, scientific analysis and experience on transport emissions reduction. Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and working with partners, the team is piloting a training program on policy development, analytical frameworks and methodologies, and public communication strategies. These trainings aim to increase awareness and knowledge of decision-makers on transport emissions reduction strategies, especially low-emission zones and congestion charging and promote the implementation of such transport-related air quality policies around China.


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