China achieves big reductions in emissions

Significant decline made due to nation’s efforts to optimize industrial structures

China has seen vast reductions in emissions of major pollutants, in stark contrast with increased output in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Meanwhile, the country’s pollutant disposal capabilities have been increasingly enhanced, according to the latest national census of pollution sources.

From 2007 to 2017, emissions of sulfur dioxide fell 72 percent, while emissions of chemical oxygen demand declined by 46 percent and oxynitride emissions decreased by 34 percent, Vice-Minister of Ecology and Environment Zhao Yingmin said at a news conference for the release of the Bulletin on the Second National Census of Pollution Sources.

“This shows the great achievements China has made in its pollution control campaign in recent years,” he said at a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office.

Despite continuous increases in their output, major industrial sectors in the country have seen emissions of pollutants decline significantly thanks to the country’s efforts to optimize industrial structures, he said.

While the output of the papermaking industry rose by 61 percent and steel industry output increased by 50 percent, the number of companies in the two sectors respectively decreased by 24 percent and 50 percent, he noted.

Meanwhile, emissions of chemical oxygen demand from the papermaking industry plummeted by 84 percent during the period, while discharges of sulfur dioxide from the steel industry dropped by 54 percent, he added.

“The quality of economic development in the 10 years has been greatly enhanced,” he stressed.

He said the country’s pollutant disposal capacity has also significantly intensified. Nationally, compared with the end of 2007, the number of facilities in industrial companies for industrial sewage disposal, desulfuration and dust extraction respectively increased by 1.4, 2.3 and four times in 2017.

Liao Xiyuan, head of technology and education at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, also noted marked decreases in pollutant emissions in the agriculture sector during the period. Emissions of total nitrogen in the sector, for example, slumped by 48 percent as the grain yield increased from 500 million metric tons to 660 million metric tons.

Zhao said the census, which was conducted from 2017 to 2019, is of great significance for the country’s efforts to win the campaign on pollution control and will offer strong support for China’s environmental protection work.

“The results of the census show the ecological and environmental protection situation in the country. Especially, it reveals the latest and most comprehensive information on sectors, regions, industries and pollutants that should be key to the country’s future ecological and environmental protection work,” he said.

It shows, for example, that agriculture and domestic sources are major contributors to water pollution, and motor vehicles are major sources of oxynitride and volatile organic compounds. Different from traditional concentrated emissions, these sources pose greater challenges in terms of management and supervision, he said.

The census also showed that the environmental infrastructure in the country’s rural and western areas still lags behind, and investment needs to be increased to address these problems, he continued.

He said the results of the census have been widely applied to serve the country’s pollution control campaign. A database of almost 3.6 million pollution sources has been established and will support the country’s efforts in enhancing pollution source management and environmental hazard screening.