Blue Skies in the People’s Republic of China and Beyond | Asian Development Bank

Blue Skies in the People’s Republic of China and Beyond

Article | 13 June 2018

Kebin He, Dean of the Tsinghua School of Environment, explains that low-carbon and low-pollution policies combined are the most cost-effective way to improve air quality in crowded cities and comply with the Paris Climate Change Agreement pledges.

While air quality levels in many urban areas of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) still exceed national standards, significant progress has been made in recent years to tackle the problem.

As part of the Asian Development Bank's Thought Leadership Series, Kebin He, Dean of the Tsinghua School of Environment, travelled to the ADB's headquarters in Manila to share lessons learned in the country’s campaign against air pollution.

He explained that low-carbon and low-pollution policies combined are the most cost-effective way to improve air quality in crowded cities and comply with the Paris Climate Change Agreement pledges.

ADB is supporting the prevention of air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area with $2.5 billion in programming.

Residents in Chinese cities are breathing easier lately, after enduring some of the highest levels of pollution registered worldwide in the past decades. How was this done?

I think there were several important tenets in the approach. The first one is strong leadership within central and local governments.

The second one is also strong public awareness, which increases pressure on policy makers.

The third one is scientific support.

And the last one is support from donors like ADB and other international organizations.

How “good” and “secure” is this situation in the long-term?

It is also crucial to integrate the haze problem, the air quality problem, and the carbon problem together.

For the long-term, continuous improvement in air quality not limited to the short time, there should be structural reforms involving the industry, energy, and transportation.

It is also crucial to integrate the haze problem, the air quality problem, and the carbon problem together.

What can other countries grappling with similar air pollution issues learn from PRC's experience?

Each country should find its own correct approach. At the same time, there are experiences that can shared among countries. For example, in the past the People’s Republic of China has benefitted from the experience of Europe and the United States.

It is important to identify the problem scientifically and then raise public awareness of the issue, so that support is given to the policy makers to go in the right direction.

What can institutions like ADB do to help countries from across Asia and the Pacific adopt a more sustainable model of economic development?

ABD has a huge network not only in the Asia-Pacific region but worldwide. It can help summarize lessons learned in the People’s Republic of China and other experience in a series of materials that can help different countries solve their problems.

But, I would like to emphasize that each country should find its own correct approach. They can refer to lessons learned from elsewhere, but they should design their own model.