Changhua Wu on Beijing's smog: Mother's Day, our children's future
- 09 May 2013
By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group.
Below is a photo taken from my office in Beijing yesterday afternoon. Puzzled? Horrified? Well, it comes as no surprise if you have been closely following the international and Chinese media coverage since the beginning of 2013. The concentration of an air pollutant called fine particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) is 382, a level which is classified as extremely toxic.
Beijing is the homeland of more than 24 million people. I am a mother with a 13-year-old boy. And my family has been living here for more than ten years. When local statistics bodies keep telling you that lung cancer is now the biggest killer of residents of Beijing, you can imagine how parents feel - not only for their own health, but more importantly for their children's futures.
We often talk about the level of environmental issues for the Chinese public as much more critical compared to their peers in other parts of the world. The explanation is simple. We literally see the problem every day.
Air pollution aside, the latest surveys of water contamination and scarcity, soil contamination and food safety, all send alarms to the people here that it is not safe to live in the world's largest emerging economy. A country which has been creating economic miracles for decades and has achieved so much in terms of driving low carbon growth, yet our cities are shrouded in smog.
What is encouraging though, is the response from the new top leadership to the uproar from the public on the need to tackle these environmental problems immediately.
Just yesterday, Beijing municipal government announced its cap of coal consumption this year to 21.5 million tons, which is 1.4 million tons less than last year. This is a positive first step.
The decision also aims to establish the required instructional and governance mechanisms, as well as incentives and disincentives that will send strong policy support to help shift the market from coal. Natural gas is one of the biggest parts of the solution in China.
In the meantime, there exists high expectations among society of the more aggressive actions that will be taken by the new leadership in the latter half of this year. It is believed that the new generation of leaders in China will adopt a clean revolution strategy to ensure this country is regarded as beautiful and sustainable.
As the wider international community celebrates Mother's Day, we must all demand ambitious action from our leadership to secure a future that is cleaner, safer and better for our children.