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A Blue Sky in Beijing? It’s Not a Fluke, Says Greenpeace (nytimes.com)
67 points by fspeech 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments

Pro tip: if you're going to visit Beijing, do what I did and accidentally schedule your trip over the same dates as a major diplomatic summit.

It was blue sky all week during APEC 2014, then on the last day before I headed for Seoul, it was wheels-up for Air Force One and right back to smog...


Can confirm with own anecdotal evidence, was there in 2007 and they told me there is some kind of communist party summit (and thus increased security in parts of the city). The sky was blue and Beijing was kind of beautiful. Sure enough 1 or 2 days after that summit was over you could barely see the other side of the street.

Can confirm. I visited just after Trump left, and the air was pretty good.

Also, I've heard from locals that they're starting to relocate dirty industries to nearby cities that foreigners tend not to visit. I visited one, and there were a few days of pretty bad smog (but blue skys some days, too).

I have accidentally done this twice now, pollution also tends to be the lowest in the fall

A lot of the smog in Beijing comes from burning coal. Over the past few years, Beijing has ordered dozens of heavily polluting factories & power plants to shut down and move away from the city. I think Shanghai has done something similar. Combined with the push to discourage using coal for home heating, which is brought up in the article, air quality has improved in Beijing.

It is a shame though Beijing is mostly exporting their pollution elsewhere. China as a whole is still building more of those polluting coal fired power plants. China plans to increase their coal-fired generation capacity by nearly 20% over the next few years. Coal usage (and coal CO2 pollution) will increase and is projected to remain flat through 2030. Though the pollution will be out of sight from major cities. Guess they can't get enough of that cheap coal electricity.

Well they did bring it down 4% in all of China. Looking at the investments they are doing in solar and wind they are moving in the right direction is it fast enough is debatable though. But I do think because they are autocratic country once they decided to go for renewables they are moving a lot faster than most other countries.

From what I understand, last year they decided to continue all coal-fired electricity plants presently under construction, but cancel all the ones that were only in the planning stage. And China is making a very strong push on renewable energy and electric vehicles.

China is a very big ocean liner, so it takes a long time to change direction, but it is definitely changing.

Is it possible to ban the export of coal power? If your country needs it then go forth. You just can't resell that power stations output internationally.

Electricity is fungible, so such a ban would make no difference in practice. China has enough non-coal plants that they could just say all the power they were exporting came from them.

It would effectively take the form that if a country or maybe provider is generating coal power, they are unable to export any power.

I'm not arguing this would fix everything, just adding direct negative to using coal. If you need coal to make your own country function, fine go ahead that's still a problem that exists.

Who would enforce such a ban? The best you could realistically do is ban the import in your country. Is there even much international electricity trade occurring?

There is in the EU: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/infrastructure/project...

`In October 2014, the European Council called for all EU countries to achieve interconnection of at least 10% of their installed electricity production capacity by 2020. This means that each country should have in place electricity cables that allow at least 10% of the electricity produced by its power plants to be transported across its borders to neighbouring countries. 17 countries are already on track to reach that target by 2020, or have already reached the target, but more interconnections are needed in some regions.`

Because the polluted air stays in your country? Anyway afaik electricity export is not a huge businesses internationally compared to domestic consumption.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe: http://airindex.eea.europa.eu

I am from southern Poland, where in winter time some regions experience visibility range of less than 200m due to smog.

This is due to many factors, including people burning trash to heat their homes, industrial pollution, building over natural green corridors, as well as simply local geography (lots of valleys and basins)

> pollution levels fell less precipitously or rose elsewhere, suggesting that a concerted effort last fall to shift heating to natural gas from coal may have simply shifted the harmful effects to regions far from the capital

It looks like they've learned from the West.

Moments like this is when I wish the Indian government acted a bit more like China : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smog_in_Delhi

I haven’t seen a blue sky in Indian cities for ages now. I was in Goa recently and I could never see the sun set all the way in the horizon due to thick haze. It was the same case in Puri in east of India always hazy. Whole country seems polluted: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_brown_cloud

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