By Paul Davies and Andrew Westgate

In advance of the first ever G20 summit to be hosted in China this year, the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau issued a revised, short-term air quality plan to improve local air conditions ahead of the summit. China has undertaken similar efforts to achieve a temporary smog lift in advance of other high profile events such as the Olympics in 2008, the Shanghai World’s Fair in 2010 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2014 – during which the rare blue skies experienced were referred to as “APEC blue.”

The G20 summit will be held September in Hangzhou, a city situated 150 miles south-west of Shanghai. As China’s largest city, and a city with significant construction, operational and residential emissions, Shanghai impacts upon the air quality of its neighbouring cities, including Hangzhou.

The overall objective of the Plan to Guarantee Air Quality in Shanghai (available in Chinese only) is to ensure that the concentration of particulate matter is smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), a typical measurement of air pollution utilised by scientists. According to the World Health Organization’s safety standards, a concentration reading of 25ug/m3 PM2.5 is considered the maximum threshold to ensure human safety. Yet in 2015, Shanghai’s average was 50ug/m3 of PM2.5,, double the recommended level.

The following measures will be in place from 24 August to 6 September this year to improve air quality in Shanghai:

  1. Power, steel chemical and petrochemical operations must limit their air pollution by 70 percent throughout the city, and by 80 percent in Jinshan District.
  2. Petrochemical operations in Shanghai must reduce production with a target of 50 percent.
  3. Production by coal-fired power stations will be reduced by 30 percent and all facilities must use only low-sulfur, high-quality coal.
  4. All chemical plants in the Jinshan District, save for those operating out of Shanghai Chemical Industry Park, will be closed.
  5. No new operations resulting in increased emissions at chemical and petrochemical facilities will be permitted.
  6. “Highly polluting” vehicles – a term which the Plan does not define– will be prohibited in Hangzhou.
  7. The use of agricultural, forestry, and port equipment shall be reduced by 30 percent across Shanghai and by 50 percent in Jinshan District.
  8. Gas stations, oil storage facilities and oil tanker trucks that have not installed oil and gas reclamation and emissions control equipment must cease operations.
  9. The Plan allows for the adoption of additional measures if certain weather patterns are forecast that might increase air quality issues.

Although these measures are short-term and designed to leverage the strong media attention surrounding the G20 summit, China is also committing to sustainable emissions reduction. Earlier in the year, the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau announced more long-term measures to improve air quality through the transformation of almost 10 square miles of the city area into forest (targeting four square miles of parks and green spaces to be built before the end of 2016), curbing the number of private cars in the city, and working with factories to cut emissions.

This post was prepared with the assistance of Glen Jeffries in the New York office of Latham & Watkins.

Read more on the development of China’s environmental policy:

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Shanghai Issues Draft of Revised Environmental Protection Regulations for Public Comment

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