Air pollution: rule of law and innovation as only way out

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Local news, 16.10.2015

Air quality and legislation was at the centre of the discussions of Workshop on Black Carbon Emission Reduction and DPF (Diesel Retrofit Pilot) on October 15th and 16th 2015 in Beijing. The knowledge-sharing conference co-organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Vehicle Emission Control Centre of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, brought together a group of Swiss experts in environment legislation, clean air technology and health and more than 100 participants from environmental bureaus of a number of Chinese cities, research institutes and international organizations.

Rule of law and innovation is how Switzerland has effectively reduced hazardous emissions and improved its air quality for the last 30 years. This is also why in 2010 Switzerland and China co-launched the cooperation in clean air legislation and policy framework, in order to better support the policy making of the revision of Air Protection Law in China and provide scientific tools, instruments and measures to efficiently reduce soot emissions. The results of this project – are being presented on 15 and 16 October 2015 in Beijing. 

In his opening speech, Swiss Ambassador Mr. Jean-Jacques de Dardel reviewed the 30 years history of how Switzerland tackled air pollution since the first Swiss Clean Air Act was enacted, shared his perspective of the role of legislation, enforcement and government political will in environmental protection. “Swiss Federal Act on the Protection of the Environment ensures any person who causes pollution must bear the cost”, said Dr. Martin Schiess, Head of Air Pollution and Chemicals division of the Swiss Federal Office for Environment, in the workshop he introduced the latest clean air policies and actions in Switzerland. 

China’s rapid urbanization, coming along with hugely growth in volume of traffic, makes PM2.5 the most pervasive air pollutants in most of China’s cities. The ultra-fine particles, also known as black carbon, contribute the biggest share in PM2.5. The black carbon is largely emitted from diesel engines, from heavy duty engines of buses, trucks to huge amount of construction machineries scattered in thousands of construction sites in cities. 

Mrs. Ming Dengli, the Director of international cooperation division of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said: “there are about 4000 to 5000 construction sites in Beijing. Emission reduction from construction sites is one of the main tasks in the Beijing Clean Air Action Plan for year 2013 to 2017. ” At the same time, number of vehicle continue to increase rapidly - according to School of Environment of Tsinghua University, The total number of China’s automobile is expected to reach 200-250 million in 2020, 350- 500 million in 2030! 

Diesel soot is classified as carcinogen in the Swiss Ordinance on Air Pollution Control since 1998. This has been confirmed by World Health Organization in 2012. This means the most efficient solution must be focused in reducing the ultra-fine particle emissions. The installation of the diesel particle filter will definitely bring health benefit. In Switzerland since many years ago, construction machines have to be equipped with such particle filters. Switzerland is willing to share its knowledge and successful experience with other countries in combating air pollution. The Swiss government has been collaborating with China Ministry of Environmental Protection in clean air field since 2010. Among all of the other collaborations under the project, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been cooperating with Beijing, Nanjing and Xiamen in retrofitting the construction machinery and buses by installation the diesel particle filters. 

The Sino-Swiss cooperation in clean air field made substantial contributions to the revision of China’s Air Prevention and Control Law, which will come into force from 2016. The project also supported strategically the definition of municipal Clean Air Action Plans, promoting new monitoring tools and innovative air protection technologies. Outcomes of the fruitful collaboration could be seen in a 15 min film Invisible Smoke made by SDC and presented for the first time during the workshop. 

Switzerland will continue to be actively involved in co-operating with China for defining innovative strategies and technologies for addressing environmental challenges and climate change. 


Film: Invisible Smoke