In 2015, there were an estimated 1.6 million deaths in China linked to its worsening air pollution. Coal mining regions such as Shanxi and steel producing Hebei province were the largest contributors of PM2.5 air pollution which pose a serious health risk because the particles can get lodged and clog up the lungs.
40 years of continued economic prosperity carried a steep price. On the road to becoming the world’s most dominant exporter, China also became the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Beijing’s level of pollution got so bad that Chinese state media referred to the situation as an “airpocalyspe”.
All that may soon change as President Xi Jinping’s administration has declared war on pollution. With more expansive and encompassing green policies in place, Beijing’s average daily concentration on PM2.5 particles are a third lower to 2015 levels. PM2.5 levels have likewise declined in other provinces by about 1/10th.
Among the green policies China has in place include an end to accepting shiploads of plastic and paper trash from other countries. The government has also deputized a special police unit that is focused on enforcing green policies.
Several factories identified as aggressive polluters have been shut down. For a while, lawmakers banned goal which sent sales of natural gas surging. However, shortfalls in supply necessitated a suspension of the policy.
During the most recent session of the National People’s Congress, officials pledged to allocate $6.4 Billion to cut pollution by 19%, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 3% and air pollution levels in key cities by 50% in five years.
Despite the additional investments in environmental clean- up projects, China’s economic growth remains robust. Last year, China’s economy grew by 6.9%.
But China’s newfound advocacy in protecting Mother Earth is not only rooted in having a sense of social and ecological responsibility. China sees massive economic opportunities in high- tech industries such as the production of electric cars and solar panels.
While Tesla may be the most recognizable brand name in electric cars, China leads the world in sales of electric powered vehicles since 2015. China aims to hit 7 million annual sales by 2025.
The government has put its weight behind manufacturers of electric cars. It has awarded Electric Vehicle (EV) manufacturers with subsidies and has tightened regulations for fossil fuel powered cars. Chinese car maker BYD Company which is funded by billionaire Warren Buffet grew 67% last year and outsold Tesla.
Other than EV’s, China also intends to become the world leader in solar panel sales and explore business opportunities in the frontier clean energy technology sector like hydrogen which is believed to be an effective alternative to coal.