Beijing expects pollution during the Olympics

(Beijing) China warned on Monday that heavy air pollution during the Beijing Olympics could not be ruled out, as coal consumption in the country soars.

Posted at 6:45 a.m.

The Asian country, which depends 60% on coal for its electricity production, has faced power cuts in recent months and has increased its coal mining as a result.

The onset of cold weather has also led to the heating being switched on early this year in the northern regions of the country, which is fueling pollution.

Less than two weeks before the Winter Olympics (February 4-20), thick fog covered the Chinese capital on Monday.

“The Beijing Olympics and Paralympics coincide with the end of winter and the beginning of spring in northern China, when the weather conditions are extremely unfavorable,” a Chinese ministry spokesman told reporters on Monday. of the Environment, Liu Youbin.

During the Olympics, “in the event of heavy pollution, all the localities (concerned) will launch emergency plans”, assured Mr. Liu, in reference to the host cities of Beijing and Zhangjiakou which will be able to order polluting factories to reduce their production. .

On Monday, the presence of fine particles in Beijing was assessed at around 218 on the index of the Swiss company IQAir, a “very unhealthy” level. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends not to exceed the threshold of 15.

However, air quality in the Chinese capital has improved significantly in recent years, with less frequent and less intense polluting episodes.

As an indication, Beijing had reached in October 2014 the threshold of 671 micrograms per m3, earning this wave of pollution the nickname “airpocalyse”.

Beijing launched a “war on pollution” the following year, winning the organization of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Dozens of coal-fired power plants have since been closed and heavy industries relocated.

With the approach of the Games, the city’s steelworks were instructed in August to reduce their production by half. And 25 million homes in northern China have had their coal stoves replaced with cleaner gas or electric burners.

But coal consumption increased again last year in the country (+4.7% over one year), according to official figures published on Sunday.

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