Transportation accounts for 10-12% of carbon dioxide emissions in China at the national level and 26% in urban areas. By 2030, experts predict that the portion of total carbon emissions accounted for by transportation will increase to 33% across the country. Transportation is also a major – and growing – contributor to fine particle air pollution. Vehicles generate 15-35% of local urban particulate matter today. As a result, each year more than 1 billion Chinese, including 166 million children, are exposed to toxic air for more than six months, resulting in severe impacts on public health and associated economic losses. 

To improve air quality and the health of residents, Beijing launched a low-emission zone in September 2017, banning heavy-duty freight vehicles with emissions below National IV Standards from entering the city. WRI China has supported the planning and implementation of this zone as well as replication in other cities. Not only does the low-emission zone improve air quality, but it also mitigates severe public health hazards and saves an estimated 43 lives each year, leading to an annual social cost savings of $37 million.

In the lead up to the launch of Beijing’s low-emission zone, WRI worked with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport and the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau on policy and strategy. They developed tools for analysis, designed communications materials and increased technical capacity through workshops. WRI also investigated public opinion and increased awareness through educational campaigns and public outreach.

WRI worked with the Ministry of Transportation and its think tank to include congestion charging in the 13th Five Year Plan to improve traffic congestion. These recommendations made their way up to the central government. WRI has also facilitated discussions and feasibility studies on low-emission zones and congestion charging in other Chinese cities.

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Cover Image by: Markus Winkler/Unsplash