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Major cities experience drop in air pollutants, greenhouse gases


China has managed to reduce the emission of major air pollutants and greenhouse gases while maintaining economic growth over the past six years, a report has found.

China's GDP grew by 39 percent and its energy consumption increased by 11 percent from 2013 to 2018. During that time, the average density of PM2.5 particulate matter and sulfur dioxide in 74 major Chinese cities that adopted new air quality standards in 2012 went down by 42 percent and 68 percent respectively, according to the China Air Quality Improvement Report.

The average density of PM 2.5 in the capital during that time, for example, dropped from 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter to 51 mcg/cubic m.

The report was published on Wednesday in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, during the Global Celebrations for World Environment Day, for which China is a host country this year.

Officials at the event, themed Beat Air Pollution, included Vice-Premier Han Zheng and Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the UN Environment Programme.

The report also said China has turned the tide in high carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2018 were 45.8 percent lower than in 2005.

Li Ganjie, minister of ecology and environment, said the Chinese government has been making unprecedented and resolute efforts to fight air pollution.

"Especially after the 18th Communist Party of China's National Congress in 2012, the Chinese government listed blue skies as a priority in the country's campaign against pollution," he said, addressing the celebrations.

Li Haisheng, president of Chinese Academy of Environmental Sciences, said, however, the situation for air pollution control in China remains grim.

Currently, over 60 percent of Chinese cities have yet to see their annual average density of PM2.5 reach the national standard of 35 mcg/cubic m.

Joyce Msuya, who is also assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, spoke highly of China's success in fighting air pollution and called the world to work together to safeguard blue skies.

"China's success in reducing air pollution in less than a generation is incredible," she said, citing the great changes in Shenzhen, which hosted the Global Celebrations for World Environment Day in 2002, as an example.

She said the city that began to deal with air pollution in 2002 now has become the first city in the world to boast 100 percent electric public transportation and is now regarded as one of the most sustainable cities in China.

"As you say in Chinese, all things are difficult before they are easy. Protecting our blue skies may be difficult, but our future relies on it. And they are our blue skies. They are our children's blue skies. ... I think when we look to China, we see many examples of how to protect it," she added.

Quoting a saying from her mother tongue Swahili that is translated as "If a river is high, it is because other rivers have joined", she called the world to work together in the campaign for blue skies.

"So let's join together. We can beat air pollution," she said.


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