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"Reflections and Actions on Improving China's Air Quality"

Evaluating Emissions: Hongyan Oliver (center), ETIP research fellow, in Beijing with Tsinghua University students assisting her with analyzing China’s fuel economy standards.
Nicole Davis

"Reflections and Actions on Improving China's Air Quality"

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Winter 2008-09

Author: Hongyan He Oliver, Former Research Fellow, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2004–2009

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Energy Technology Innovation Policy; Environment and Natural Resources; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


While the world congratulated Beijing for its dazzling Olympic stadiums and the splendid opening ceremony, it should have also given the city another round of applause for its decade-long efforts to clean up its air. Air quality was among the most difficult challenges that Beijing had to tackle to host the 2008 Olympics, given its dire environmental conditions in the late 1990s.

To my delight, on my research trip there four weeks before the Beijing Olympics, I perceived apparent improvements in air quality and traffic conditions in the city. Some of these improvements were temporary, but its Olympic effort showed the world and China that it is capable of making great changes.

Like Beijing, most Chinese cities are facing air pollution problems mainly resulting from burning coal at a very large scale and rapidly rising vehicle population.  Since 2000, the Belfer Center’s Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group (ETIP) has been working with partners in China to tackle these problems. With ETIP Director Kelly Sims Gallagher, my research identifies technological and policy solutions for key energy and environmental problems associated with the fast expanding Chinese transportation sector. We study and make recommendations around clean and alternative mobile fuels, advanced vehicle technologies, fuel economy standards, and in-use vehicle emissions. We work with Chinese partners such as the Ministry of Science and Technology, national and municipal environmental agencies, the China Automotive Research and Technology Center, and Tsinghua University.

Since the late 1990s, China has undertaken a full array of aggressive actions toward a more sustainable transportation sector: increased government research and development spending on advanced vehicle technologies, promulgation of vehicle fuel economy and more. With its population and prosperity rapidly increasing, the challenge to drastically reduce emissions is huge but essential.


For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Oliver, Hongyan. "Reflections and Actions on Improving China's Air Quality." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Winter 2008-09.

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