China’s Blue Sky War: an effort to control air pollution

China’s air pollution challenge continues to draw public attention. In response, China is making efforts to reduce and prevent pollutionparticularly related to VOCsWhat does this mean for your international company?

Rongrong Ni Alice Qun Zhao

by Rongrong Ni, Alice Qun Zhao

China’s so called “Blue Sky War affects many air pollutants, including ones that cause haze. The main cause of haze, otherwise known as air pollution, is a large amount of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which comes from natural dust and direct industrial emissions. In addition, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds – also referred to as SO2, NOx and VOCs – contribute to poor air quality. In order to control and eliminate this pollution at its source, China issued multiple planover the past few years, since 2013. However, 2020 is a defining year for China, as new regulations continue to come into forceFor instance, this July was the first time that there was a mandatory standard on the control of fugitive emissions of VOCs for general industries.

The result of the “Blue Sky War” should be known this year

The Three-Year Action Plan for Winning the Blue Sky War sets up standards reducing PM2.5, SO2 and NOx emissionsThe action plan covers years 2018 through 2020 and so we are at a turning point; the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. Companies engaging in different industries are subject to different emission standards. Regulated industry should tune into their specific industry requirements. For example:  

  • Companies that operate industrial furnaces are subject to the Comprehensive Control Plan for Air Pollution in Industrial Furnaces; 
  • Pharmaceutical companies are subject to the Standard for Air Pollutants in Pharmaceutical Industry (GB 37823-2019); and 
  • Companies that manufacture or produce paint, ink or adhesives are subject to the Standard for Air Pollutants in Paint, Ink and Adhesive Industry (GB37824-2019). 

The contribution of VOCs to air pollution is a 2020 focus

China is also focusing on the control of fugitive emission of VOCs. Previously, regulations of VOCs were scattered in different air emission standards. However, in 2019, China issued the Standard for Fugitive Emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (GB 37822-2019), a standard devoted to VOCs specifically. In addition, China issued a VOC emission control plan called the Comprehensive Control Plan for Volatile Organic Compounds in Key Industries and many local regulations regarding VOC emission. Thus, companies operating in China are now subject to an array of complex standards, some of which are industry specific and under local control.  

The year 2020 is, and will continue to be, an important year for the control of air pollution in China. As China expands air pollution regulation beyond traditional pollutants to VOCs, regulated industry should keep track of evolving requirements. The level of success that China has in controlling air emissions, and the compliance of industry doing business in China with new requirements, will likely determine the health of China’s air (and its people) moving forward.  

In our latest Whitepaper, “The Blue Sky War: China’s 2020 effort toward air pollution prevention and control,” we provide context for China’s evolving regulation of air pollution. Notably, we include a chart of VOC emissions standards to help companies understand the key developments related to fugitive emission of VOCs – a once underregulated pollutant that is receiving renewed attention and regulation in 2020.

The Blue Sky War: China’s effort to control air pollution

This free whitepaper gives you much needed context on China’s evolving regulation of air pollution and perspective on what is receiving renewed attention and regulation in 2020.

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