Friday, September 27, 2013

Can Congestion Pricing Solve Beijing's Transport Problems?

Beijing recently announced that they will consider Congestion Pricing in 2017.

Here is an article from China Dialogue in 2008, which discussed in detailed, if this is beneficial for the Beijing and is Beijing ready for this. To that matter, besides Singapore, how many cities are ready to introduce congestion pricing like London or Stockholm?


Olympic transport measures in Beijing were a great success, but the British capital may still have some important lessons to teach the Chinese capital about managing traffic, writes London Assembly member Murad Qureshi.

Visiting Beijing for the very successful Olympic Games in August, and then attending the Urban Transportation Management Forum organized by the Shenzhen Municipal Government to talk to their planning bureau about the experience of congestion charging in London, gave me an interesting idea. During my visit to the east coast cities in China, I was struck by the possibility of introducing London-style congestion charging to Beijing. Such measures increasingly need to be considered due to the need to reduce congestion and improve air quality in Beijing, particularly after the successful short-term measures undertaken during the Olympics have come to an end.

The clear blue skies at the end of the Beijing Olympics were impressive, especially given  concerns expressed by some about the possible adverse effects of air pollution on the performance of top athletes. The latter, of course, did not materialise, as 43 world records and 120 Olympic records were shattered during the Games. Credit here should go to the initiatives taken by the city authorities to improve air quality in Beijing during the Olympics, which were achieved by providing better and cheaper public transport and implementing the car licensing scheme. The success of the latter has interestingly led to local people to call for the extension of the two-month, odd-even license plate restriction that allows the city’s 3.3 million private car owners to drive only on alternate days. In the case of public transport, Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing municipal committee during the Olympics, announced that the reduced ticket prices in use for the duration of the Games would be extended. In Beijing there was a cut in the standard price of a bus ticket by 60% for regular passengers and 80% for students. Last October, the price of a single journey subway ticket was slashed 30% to 2 yuan (US$ 0.29). So, not surprisingly, because of the cheaper fares and the traffic control measures introduced for the Olympics, the proportion of Beijing residents now using public transport on a daily basis is up to 45% from 35%.

The national government initiatives enacted at the beginning of September to raise taxes on big cars and reduce them on smaller ones will also contribute to improving the quality of life in Beijing. Owners of cars with engines above four-litres capacity will have to pay a 40% tax, which is double the existing rate. The tax for cars between three and four litres will rise from 15% to 25%. However, those cars with below one-litre capacity will be reduced from 3% to 1%.  This tax move is a good first step for the country towards an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly economy, while helping to save fuel and thus increase energy security.

Yet Beijing will still have 3.3 million cars, and that figure is growing by 300,000 a year. The only solution to this challenge is the continuous development of the city’s public transport system along its current path, but with one addition – congestion charging that will ration road space by price, so that the marginal cost of an additional trip by a car owner will be paramount in their minds.

The geography of Beijing, with its various ring roads, would lend itself very easily to congestion charging. At the beginning, a congestion charge zone could be introduced within either the second or third ring road and then be extended outwards depending on the success of the scheme and public demand for it. In order to win public support, the funds raised from the congestion charge would have to be reinvested into public transport. As in London, some exemptions, or at least a discount rate, might have to be granted to residents within the charge zone. Nevertheless, the scheme could be put into operation very quickly using simple technology like closed-circuit television at the entry points off the ring roads and camera enforcement using a database of car licenses. Although I understand there is not as yet a national database of car licenses in China, and I am unsure as to numbers of cars that move between the various cities of China, these hurdles should not be insurmountable for the Chinese authorities to overcome.

One day I look forward to visiting Beijing again and seeing road congestion charging, or least another variant of road pricing, being implemented to improve the quality of life for Beijing's residents. This should be the icing on the cake, heaped on top of the outstanding investment already undertaken by the authorities, measures that are aimed toward people-centred and scientific methods of development.

Murad Qureshi is deputy Chair of the London Assembly’s Environmental Committee. This article was originally published at The Qureshi Report.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fresh Air by 2030 in Beijing (Asia Society)

For almost the whole month, much of urban China all but disappeared behind the heaviest toxic smog on record. Beijing registered air pollution readings off the charts. On some days, for hours at a time, the air quality index (AQI) in the capital flirted with 1,000—twice the highest, most dangerous level of fine particulate matter measured in the air by the Chinese government’s own instruments. And Beijing’s air was relatively clean when compared with places such as nearby Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province.

Link to Asia Society article.

You can read the whole thing at China Green.
And for more on air quality in China, check out Zhao's

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Matertial Footprint of Countries

The 20 Countries With The World’s Biggest "Material Footprints".
Fast Co-Exist, September 20th, 2013

Sustainable economic development requires pulling off a difficult feat: increasing people’s wealth while also reducing their material impact on the planet. It's not a trick society has mastered yet. But the world is apparently digging itself into a deeper hole than most experts ever imagined.

In the past, some measures have shown that richer nations have managed to grow wealth and reduce impact in certain scenarios. Economists call this feat the "decoupling" of wealth and consumption. But this might really be a red herring, according to a new analysis.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales, CSIRO, and the University of Sydney calculated a new measure they call the “material footprint” of 186 nations and published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently.

The researchers made a point to include the true resources that go into all of the goods that a country imports. That means not only the resources that make it into a finished product, but also the materials--from biomass to metal ores to fossil fuels--that go into enabling the complicated web of global trade. "It's very similar to a carbon footprint," says Tommy Wiedmann, the study's lead author. "It's exactly the same principle."

"As an example you might think of Japan exporting cars to the U.S.," Wiedmann explains to Co.Exist. The existing indicator measures consumption in terms of trade statistics, and trade statistics show that the U.S. consumes a certain tonnage of cars per year. "But further upstream in the production processes, somewhere in Japan or in another country there would be mining of iron ore to produce steel," Wiedmann says. "Maybe you get one ton of steel out of 1,000 tons of iron ore, and this amount of material of iron ore is actually not recorded in trade statistics."

They learned that a whopping two-fifths of all global raw materials were extracted for the purpose of exporting goods in 2008. Overlooking figures like this has allowed countries that are huge importers to seem like they’ve slowed their growing environmental footprints.

In the new rankings, China’s material footprint is the highest--twice as large as the U.S., which is in second place. Much of China’s resource consumption is linked to construction materials. But taking into account population size, Australia has the highest material footprint. Its per-person material footprint, at 35 tons a person, is more than double the average developing world nation. India’s is at the lower end at 3.7 tons per person. South Africa is the only country that has demonstrated "absolute" decoupling.

All industrialized nations show the same pattern: As GDP grew over the last decades, their material footprint grew in parallel. A common indicator that looks only at “domestic material consumption” is what previously showed a more optimistic (and incorrect) decoupling trend. The researchers write:
 “As wealth grows, countries tend to reduce their domestic portion of materials extraction through international trade, whereas the overall mass of material consumption generally increases. With every 10% increase in gross domestic product, the average national MF increases by 6%. Our findings call into question the sole use of current resource productivity indicators in policy making.”

And it's just going to get worse: "There have been some projections of how economic growth will develop in some Asian countries," says Wiedman." And some very rough estimates have suggested that if we continue on the path that we've been on for a while that by 2050 we will use up to four times as much [natural resources] as we currently use."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Air Pollution News & Alerts - September 13th, 2013

China.Orf, September 14th, 2013
Introducing a Beijing congestion charge a not so good decision.

The Hindu, September 14th, 2013
Device to check fuel refills.

The World Bank, September 13th, 2013
Removing the Smoke from Making Tortillas in Central America.

NRDC Switchboard, September 13th, 2013
China Pledges to Tackle Air Pollution with New Plan.

Health Day, September 13th, 2013
Car Ventilation Settings May Reduce Exposure to Pollution.

Reuters, September 12th, 2013
China to cut coal use, shut polluters, in bid to clear the air.

India Blooms, September 12th, 2013
Greenpeace calls on India to cut coal emissions like China.

Huffington Post, September 12th, 2013
New Coal-Fired Plants Ban To Take Place In Beijing, Shanghai And Guangzhou China.

Global Post, September 12th, 2013
China vows air pollution cuts in major cities.

Fast Co-Design, September 12th, 2013
Dynamic Duos: Michael Bloomberg And Janette Sadik-Khan On The Future Of Walking, Biking, And Driving.

This is Beijing, September 12th, 2013
Beijing to shut down coal-fired power plants.

China Daily, September 11th, 2013
Solutions to air pollution.

Shanghai Daily, September 7th, 2013
Gas-powered vehicles to tackle PM2.5.

Reuters, September 4th, 2013
World Bank targets air pollution in climate battle.

CNN, September 4th, 2013
Kite detects pollution, shines light on Beijing smog.

Huffington Post, September 3rd, 2013
Fake Hong Kong Skyline Gives Tourists A Better Backdrop, Ignores Pollution Problem.

Global Times, September 3rd, 2013
Beijing license plate lottery to get harder.

Green China, September 3rd, 2013
Meteorological center launches air pollution forecasts.

Business Standard, September 3rd, 2013
Beijing to impose car congestion fee to tackle pollution by 2017.

Live Mint, August 22nd, 2013
Air pollution: Are Indian cities better off than the West?

Science Codex, August 21st, 2013
Home cooking, traffic are sources of key air pollutants from China.

Science Daily, August 19th, 2013
Scientists Relate Urban Population to Air Pollution.

Times of India, August 18th, 2013
Hate them, but can't do without autorickshaws.

New York Times, August 17th, 2013
Gorgeous Glimpses of Calamity.

Business Green, August 13th, 2013
Tackling 'black carbon' and methane unlikely to deliver promised climate gains.

Huffington Post, August 13th, 2013
Air Pollution Concerns Halt Enormous Coal Plant In China.

Times of India, August 12th, 2013
India's remarkable growth story clouded by a degrading environment.

Power Engineering, August 12th, 2013
Can Existing Coal Plants Survive the New Carbon Pollution Regulation?

Reuters, August 12th, 2013
Cutting soot and methane may not give hoped-for climate help.

All Africa, August 12th, 2013
Rwanda: Proper Vehicle Maintenance Necessary to Reduce Air Pollution.

Coal Guru, August 12th, 2013
How air pollution concerns stopped a China coal power project.

The Japan Times, August 11th, 2013
Toyota, China’s Tsinghua University jointly studying PM2.5 air pollutants.

The Guardian, August 11th, 2013
Pollutionwatch: Beware of wind from the cities.

Huffington Post, August 11th, 2013
China's Pollution Crisis To Be Tackled Head On With More Cash.

South China Morning Post, August 10th, 2013
Pollution-free days of Beijing Olympics now just a happy memory.

NPR, August 10th, 2013
Can Hacking The Stratosphere Solve Climate Change?

NPR, August 9th, 2013
Climate Update: Warming Temperatures.

Daily Tribune, August 9th, 2013
Action needs to be taken now to address air pollution.

Science Daily, August 9th, 2013
NASA 'Fire Towers' in Space Watch for Wildfires On the Rise.

The Atlantic, August 9th, 2013
The Most Famous Models for How Cities Grow Are Wrong.

France 24, August 9th, 2013
Kosovo activists urge US help to stop coal-fired plant project.

The City Fix, August 8th, 2013
China’s Urban Billion: Energy use and greenhouse gases.

NPR, August 8th, 2013
Swinging CO2 Levels Show The Earth Is 'Breathing' More Deeply.

Science Daily, August 8th, 2013
Ozone Hole Might Slightly Warm Planet, Computer Model Suggests.

Science Daily, August 8th, 2013
Researchers Constrain the Sources of Climate And Health-Afflicting Air Pollution from China.

BBC, August 7th, 2013
Why is cycling so popular in the Netherlands?

The Wall Street Journal, August 7th, 2013
In China, Air Pollution Rules Spur Big Car Purchases.

EDF, August 7th, 2013
Could air pollution cause autism and diabetes in children?

The Guardian, August 7th, 2013
Should petrol and diesel cars be banned?

Hindustan Times, August 7th, 2013
Commuters waste fuel worth Rs. 54 crore every year due to jams.

The Guardian, August 6th, 2013
NOAA report says Arctic sea ice is disappearing at unprecedented pace.

Bloomberg News, August 5th, 2013
How Cleaning China’s Dirty Air Can Slow Climate Change.

Science Daily, August 5th, 2013
Ozone-Protection Treaty Had Climate Benefits.

The City Fix, August 5th, 2013
Beijing bans street barbeques in effort to improve air quality.

Eco Geek, August 5th, 2013
In India, Cost of Wind Power Competes with New Coal.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Float Beijing - Using Kites to Monitor Air Quality and Relay Health Index Information to the Public

For the 20 million residents of Beijing, air pollution -- and the lack of official information about it -- is a constant concern. Until recently, eye-watering smog was the only reliable sign that car fumes and smoke had reached unsafe levels, but now two young designers have come up with a more elegant and accurate indicator of air quality. Link to the article on CNN - September 4th, 2013.

Link to article in Inhabitat --- FLOAT Beijing is an interactive, community driven art project that uses kite making and kite flying to activate dialogue, map and record air quality in Beijing, China. Urban air quality is a serious issue that affects rapidly industrializing cities globally, and it is an issue kept quiet by the government of China due to fears of criticism and protest from the public. At the same time, there is ample opportunity to use cheap, easily accessible microcontroller technology for grassroots air quality mapping. Through a series of workshops, FLOAT empowers and enables local residents to take air quality monitoring into their own hands, while establishing new relationships and networks within the community through the act of group kite making and flying.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Space for Cycling Must be Central to a Bold Transport Policy

Article from the Guardian.

History has a funny way of repeating itself, often to the tedium of those involved and onlookers alike. So as Westminster prepares to debate cycling tonight for the second time in 18 months, you have to wonder whether we're about to get a good dose of deja vu, or if this time the government really means business.

As pressure mounts to alleviate the strain on our ailing health system, as our economy continues to falter and as the demand for safe, healthy and affordable travel options builds, now could be the time for action.

In the 1970s when smoking was still fashionable, not even those with the most optimistic outlook could have imagined that it would suffer the fall from grace that it has. Banned from pubs in 2007 and workplaces before that, the impact of smoking on our health was undeniable and something had to be done.

Today sitting is the new smoking, with 36,815 lives lost in England every year because of physical inactivity. Imagine the day when we have mandatory health warnings on cars, when government-funded advertising shouts about the dangers of sitting still and when its compulsory for doctors to ask us how often we cycle as part of our annual health check-up. The growing obesity crisis – as well as high levels of heart disease, cancer and other fatal illnesses – puts an immense but avoidable strain on the NHS, costing us billions. The health benefit of cycling on the National Cycle Network in 2012 was £295m, according to the WHO Health Economic Assessment Tool. Getting Britain cycling makes economic sense too.

The mandate for this kind of momentous change is there. Cycling groups are becoming increasingly organised and politically mobile but so too are ordinary people who ride their bikes. Tonight, cyclists will ride through Parliament Square to coincide with the debate, calling on the London Assembly and UK government to create space for people who ride bikes and put an end to needless deaths on our roads.

Everyone has the right to get from A to B safely, regardless of how they choose to travel. But as it stands, while it continues to get safer for motorists to drive on our roads, the number of cyclist casualties is going up. In fact, while the number of people riding bikes remains static, cyclist deaths have increased by 10% in the last year alone. It's unacceptable and something needs to be done.

Last year Sustrans published figures showing that the number of people using the National Cycle Network had increased by 18% in a year, proving that the demand for safe, quiet routes is there. More than 71,000 people have signed the Times petition calling on the government to implement the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report – that's 71,000 votes not to be ignored.

If ministers are tired of being told they're too reactive and feeling beholden only to the next election, not able to look out for our future, then this is the opportunity to satisfy both demands. Implementing policies that put cycling at the forefront of our transport system will not only gain votes at the next election, but also show foresight by safeguarding future generations. Increasing cycling levels will mean we all have the chance to live long, healthy lives. It will clear congestion on our roads, keep smog and pollution at bay and help us to return to a time when we knew our neighbours and could socialise in our streets.

These will be bold steps. The vision for cycling will not be realised without leadership that looks to the future with optimism and purpose. Tonight when the government debates the future health and prosperity of the UK, let's hope they don't repeat history, but grasp it with both hands and choose to make it.

Beijing to Introduce Congestion Pricing System by 2017

Following the footsteps of bigger metropolitan cities like , Milan and Tokyo, is set to implement the car congestion fee in order to cut down on air pollution by 2017.

Car emissions are believed to be the root cause for one-third of air pollutants in the city and also lead to a lot of congestion in certain areas and with this move, the Chinese capital hopes to limit car use in the center of the city.

According to Daily, the congestion charge would be levied mainly on vehicles in the downtown area and will be set out in the near future by the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau and Beijing Commission of Transport.

Spokesman for the bureau, Fang Li said that whoever pollutes the air is responsible to clean it up and next year the capital will also see ban on private cars at certain times and areas.

Air pollution incharge at the bureau Yu Jianhua said that the government will hold public hearings before the implementation of the congestion fee and regional vehicle restriction, and will widely gauge public opinion.

Residents are reluctant for such a fee as they believe that the restriction on private vehicles would be inconvenient and suggest government cars take the lead and compensation be given to car users.
Under the new restriction, to be carried out in 2014, vehicles from outside Beijing will be forbidden from entering the Sixth Ring Road unless with permission, the report added.

Link to the article on Business Standard.

Link to the article on BBC.

Link to a discussion piece on China Dialogue.