China had very lax emission standards for vehicles until about 5 years ago. But as the smog problem grew, the standards were tightened and then tightened again. The problem is, there are still lots of cars built more than 5 years ago on the roads and those are a major source of pollution. In response, China has decided that it must junk up to 6 million of the oldest and dirtiest cars on the road to help reduce pollution in major cities. Sort of reminds me of the ill fated and much debated “Cash For Clunkers” program in the US a few years back, except in China the cars selected will probably be confiscated, rather than purchased.
China has become synonymous with intense smog hanging over its cities, due in large part to tens of millions of cars, trucks and buses spewing pollutants into the air from their exhaust pipes. In Beijing, for example, the state news agency Xinhua estimates that 31% of the pollution comes from vehicle emissions. Basically, what happened to California in the 50’s and 60’s is happening to cities like Beijing and Shanghai today only more so.
You may remember that China ordered a halt to virtually all industrial activity around Beijing in an effort to reduce the smog problem before the Olympics. Chinese people have taken to wearing masks over the nose and mouth when venturing outside in an attempt to reduce breathing in the harmful elements in the air around them. For those who are able to choose where they live, the number one consideration for Chinese people is moving to a place with less air pollution. The government has made moves to reduce the choking levels of pollution, and estimates that about 7.8% of the cars on the road don’t meet current emissions standards, and that next year another 5 million dirty vehicles could head to the scrap heap as well.
How successful the program is will depend on the other areas of the economy doing their part. China relies heavily on coal, much of which it gets from Australia. So far ,the emphasis has been on providing enough power to drive the economy forward with little thought for the consequences. Now the chickens have come home to roost, so to speak, and China must deal with the fact that it is poisoning its own well.
Taking 6 million old cars off the roads will help. But China has a lot more work to do than simply crushing older cars.