Review of Beijing's comprehensive motor vehicle emission control programs

Published: 2015.11.05
By

Zifei Yang, Haifeng Wang, Zhenying Shao, Rachel Muncrief

Transportation is a key contributor to air pollution in urban areas. Beijing, a city with historically poor air quality, has implemented new standards and programs to combat vehicular emissions. Beijing’s early adoption of emission control and fuel quality standards (six years ahead of the countrywide timeline), along with its implementation of in-use emission reduction programs, makes it an innovative leader in city-level transportation air-quality policy.

This white paper provides a summary overview and cost-benefit analysis of Beijing’s vehicle emission control programs, including new-vehicle emission standards, fuel quality standards, in-use vehicle emission control efforts, and other programs, such as alternative fuel vehicles and population control.

Beijing’s early implementation of the China 5/V emission standards and ultralow sulfur fuel standards have yielded immediate emission reductions from the in-use vehicle fleet. However, with vehicle demand growing inexorably, emissions will soon start to increase again unless more stringent standards are implemented. With the introduction of the Beijing 6/VI (or potentially China 6/VI) standards, emissions from on-road vehicles would continue to decline through 2030. Furthermore, the Beijing 6/VI standards are extremely cost-effective. A conservative estimate of the benefits of the Beijing 6/VI standards indicates that, in 2040, they would outweigh the costs by a factor of 4 to 1, with most of the benefit coming from better public health.

This paper offers three main conclusions:

  1. Beijing’s vehicle emission control program has delivered significant environmental and health benefits, but the implementation of Beijing 6/VI will be key in helping Beijing prevent long-term emission growth.
  2. Accelerating the pace of emission control in the areas surrounding Beijing will maximize the regional environmental impact. Beijing should focus on cooperating with the surrounding Jing-Jin-Ji (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei) capital region to push for additional emission control programs.
  3. Beijing’s vehicle emission control experience can be an inspiration for other cities. With the legal power to carry out most of the same actions as Beijing, other cities in China can draw lessons from not just the success stories but also the hard choices and tradeoffs made as those cities seek out the routes most appropriate to their own situations to realize emission reductions.