Beijing’s Blue Sky: Dream or Reality?

“How is your sky so blue, Beijing?” this is what a friend who lives in the capital posted on a popular social network a few days ago. She has not been the only one noticing the surprising brightness of the sky above Beijing in the last few months. In fact, apart from the yellow colour during sand storms, looking up above the forbidden city you would more than often just see the grey of the sickly smog shrouding everything and everyone. But this has not been the case recently.

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According to the data collected by Beijing’s municipality’s environment bureau, the PM2.5 (one of the deadliest particulates of air pollution) levels have fallen almost 20 percent in the first few months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. However, even this is certainly good news, the average air pollution in Beijing is still more than two times that of national standards, which is relatively not low itself.

Looking at the bigger picture, China is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, providing about one fourth of the total CO2 globally produced. Before last December’s 20th annual session of the Conference of Parties (COP 20) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, China and the US agreed on a trajectory of emission control and reduction. The historical meeting unveiled a deal to reduce greenhouse gas output of the two countries, with China announcing to peak its emission by 2030 at the latest.

The United Nations members were gathered again in Bonn for the Climate Change Conference that had been taking place on June 1-11. The conference was supposed to lead toward the world climate pact, which will be signed next December in Paris as a conclusion of the COP 21. In the meanwhile, on Monday, two researchers of the London School of Economics published a work in which they state that, following the current trend, China will probably peak its emission as soon as 2025, five years earlier than its stated goal. These findings suggest that it is increasingly likely that we will achieve the de facto target for global climate policy: avoiding warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level.

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Even if China is still highly dependent on carbon, the main contributor to climate disruption, Chinese government is successfully promoting green technologies and renewable resources. The consumption of natural gas is rapidly increasing and China is the country which the most is investing in wind and solar energy. China’s environmental regulators are also pushing for a wider use of drones watching pollution levels and supplementing the existing monitoring system. Some experts say using drones to monitor pollutants will help environmental regulators counter the data fraud problem, since drones can quickly scan targets on the ground and send data back to experts for real-time analysis or store it for later study. Moreover, compared to traditional monitoring, drones are not limited by geographic conditions.

As for Beijing’s blue skies, “windier conditions have played a big role” the head of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs said. Will the blue sky last? It seems that nobody can say and, anyway, having a blue sky does not automatically imply an improved air quality. So, if you reside in the capital, you better download the “Blue Map App” and check out the pollution level before opening your windows, even if you can see the blue behind the glass.

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