China Releases New Ambient Air Quality Standards

PM2.5 Standards Set

On 29 February 2012, the China State Council passed the roadmap for ambient air quality standards with the aim of improving the living environment and protecting human health. The Ambient Air Quality Standards (GB 3095-2012) prescribes the first-ever limits for PM2.5 (particulates with diameter of 2.5 microns or less). It also modified the previous area classifications by combining Class III (special industrial areas) with Class II (residential, mixed use areas).

The new standards are comparable to the interim targets (IT) set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Specifically, Grade II PM2.5, PM10 and O3 (8-hour) standards are same as WHO IT-1. The new standards will be implemented on 1 January 2016 for whole China. In accordance with the Guidance of Promoting Joint Prevention and Control of Air Pollution and Improving the Regional Air Quality, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) may require some cities to implement the new standards before the 2016 implementation schedule. At the same time, provinces are also encouraged to implement the new standards even before 2016, as soon as the cities under their jurisdiction are ready.

“This is a milestone development in advancing health-based air quality management in China and an important regulation which will contribute to the overall improvement of livability of Chinese cities,” said Yan Peng, China Director of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia). “This is in line with CAI-Asia’s work on tracking air quality levels and promoting the development of a roadmap for ambient air quality standards in Asia which will be comparable to international guidelines.”

A detailed comparison of GB 3095-2012 and WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQG) is provided in the table below.

*Grade I is for Natural Protection Area and Other areas which need special protection.
*Grade II is for Residential, Commercial, Industrial and Rural Area

In China, the CAI-Asia has received official recognition by the MEP as a partner in reaching out to Chinese cities on air quality management. Since 2005, CAI-Asia and the MEP co-organized 7 city AQM workshops. City AQM Workshops are organized by CAI-Asia and MEP at least once per year for the CAI-Asia China City Network which has 13 members: Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Harbin, Jinan, Lanzhou, Luoyang, Qingdao, Tianjin and Urumqi. Representatives from Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB), Shanghai EPB, and EPBs of other large cities are also involved in the workshops. Furthermore, CAI-Asia is now working with cities and provinces in Yangtze River Delta and in South China/Pearl River Delta to support regional collaboration on AQM.

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