China’s capital city, Beijing, is set to host the 2014 APEC conference next month. During this conference, China will host heads of state from 21 different countries, including Barack Obama. However, this month’s pollution level in Beijing has been extraordinarily high, raising concerns for the health of officials in attendance.
China’s pollution level in major cities is perpetually high. The measure of PM2.5 particles in the air in China’s cleanest metropolis, Haikou, is on average 26, which for comparison is almost twice that of Los Angeles. PM 2.5 is a type of airborne particulate which the WHO classifies as a group 1 carcinogen. Beijing’s average reading of PM2.5 is 90, which is more than 7 times the 12.4 benchmark which the WHO defines as “good”. However, for three consecutive days this month, October 8-10, PM2.5 readings exceeded 300, levels which prompt the government to advise all elderly and children to remain indoors.
In an effort to improve smog conditions for the APEC conference on the 10th and 11th of next month, China is initiating drastic programs to reduce pollution. The government in Beijing will impose odd/even driving restrictions (on certain days cars with license plates ending in an odd number will be allowed onto the road and on alternating days those ending in even numbers will be permitted) beginning November 3rd and continuing through the end of the conference, a plan that China hopes will reduce the number of cars on the road by at least 35%. Additionally, Beijing will add 400 public transit buses in an effort to encourage less individual drivers. Beijing has also declared November 7-12 a public holiday, during which public schools and government offices will be shut down, further reducing travel pollution. The city plans to halt all construction and demolition projects for the week to reduce amount of dust and smoke in the air as well and to impose pollution restrictions on industries in surrounding provinces.