Best of Office Weekly Round Up: Greening the Beijing Olympics
On July 31st at a convention center in downtown Kuala Lumpur, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach opened the envelope and announced that Beijing has won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. This decision makes Beijing the first city ever to host both Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
For many years, Beijing has suffered from serious air pollution issues. The main sources of air pollutants come from vehicle emission, coal burning in near regions and dust storms.
The people of China routinely wear a 3M mask when going outdoors since smoggy conditions dominate a significant part of daily life. Air pollution has been known to lead to diseases, such as emphysema, asthma and lung cancer. Masks are a necessity for residents in Beijing and many people modify their daily routine to stay indoors during peak alert days. Sadly, a clear blue sky has become such a luxury that people take pictures to share it on social media.
1) The Five-year(2013 – 2017) clear air action plan
In 2013, Beijing municipal authorities disclosed a five-year clear air action plan with an investment of $130 billion to improve air quality. The government realized air pollution would be the major issue holding Beijing back from winning the bid. The five-year plan was once again put on the agenda.
In the plan, measures mainly include cutting coal consumption, increasing clean energy use and reducing the production capacities of pollution offenders:
2) Reduce coal consumption
Industrial coal consumption is the vital factor contributing to air pollution in Beijing. The capital city plans to shut down four major coal power plants in 2016: replacing them with gas stations and electric power. In the past two years, the plan has cut coal consumption by 30%.
3) Withdraw high emission vehicles and curb new car registration
In 2013 and 2014, the Beijing government has taken more than one million high emission vehicles off the roads. According Beijing’s environmental protection bureau, vehicle emissions were responsible for 31% of air pollution. Using a licensing lottery system, the city also plans to limit the overall amount of cars on the road to under 6 million by 2017.
4) Ban restaurants from operating outdoor barbecues
On May 2014, Beijing announced a ban on outdoor barbecue restaurants in suburban areas in an effort to improve air quality. Barbecue is a popular street food style in Beijing, but the government believes it’s a smog contributor.
5) Improve urban planning and increase green spaces
Beginning this year, Beijing plans to increase public green spaces by 600 hectares and will continue improving green spaces each year thereafter. The city is on the way to be greener and cleaner.
Beijing’s mayor Wang Anshun told IOC delegates that “Beijing’s air quality will meet World Health Organization(WHO) standards by the start of the winter of 2022.”
Although the Olympics were a catalyst for change, fighting against air pollution is not only for Olympic glory and Beijing’s good image, but for the health of tens of millions of people in the city.