Sources and Emissions of Air Pollutants in Beijing

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Chemistry


Beijing suffers from very high concentrations of airborne pollutants, leading to adverse health and wellbeing for over twenty million people. The pollutants likely to have the greatest effects upon human health are particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Both particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are emitted directly from individual sources (primary contributions, many of which are not well quantified); and are formed in the atmosphere (secondary contributions, which are highly complex). Ozone is entirely secondary in nature, formed from reactions of precursor gases, whose sources and abundance are also challenging to constrain. These uncertainties hinder understanding of the causes of air pollution in Beijing, which is needed to deliver effective and efficient strategies for pollution reduction and health improvement.

AIRPOLL-Beijing project will address this challenge, through identification and quantification of the sources and emissions of air pollutants in Beijing. The project sits within the NERC/MRC-NSFC China megacity programme, which includes projects addressing the atmospheric processes affecting air pollutants, human exposure and health effects, and solutions / mitigation strategies to reduce air pollution and health impacts.

The project exploits the combined experience and expertise of leading UK and Chinese scientists, applying multiple complementary approaches. The project deploys multiple atmospheric measurement and analysis strategies to characterise pollutant abundance and sources, develop novel emissions inventories, and integrate these to produce new modelling tools for use in policy development. We adopt a range of state-of-the-science approaches:

-Receptor Modelling, where detailed composition measurements are used to infer pollutant sources from their chemical signatures, combining world-leading UK and Chinese capability.

-Flux Measurements, where the total release of pollutants from all sources is measured, providing a key metric to refine emission inventories. We will combine near-ground measurements (using the unique Institute of Atmospheric Physics 325m tower in central Beijing), ground-based observations and fluxes derived from satellite observations.

-3D spatial analysis, in which a novel sensor network will be deployed around central Beijing to measure pollutant fields.

-Development of novel emissions inventories, which will predict the temporally- and spatially- resolved emissions of air pollutants from all sources, enhancing existing capability.

-Development of new online modelling tools, within which to integrate emissions, atmospheric processing and meteorology to predict primary and secondary pollutant concentration fields.

AIRPOLL-Beijing will integrate these approaches to provide thorough understanding of the sources and emissions of air pollutants in Beijing, at unprecedented detail and accuracy. While the project is a self-contained activity, key deliverables feed into Processes, Health and Solutions themes of the programme.

This proposal seeks Newton fund support, part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. The project will directly address ODA objectives, in the categories of (i) people (through the joint development of novel scientific approaches to the understanding of megacity air pollution), (ii) programmes (as all aspects of the project are joint UK-Chinese research endeavours) and (iii) translation (through provision of detailed air pollution source assessments, in support of assessment of health impacts and development of mitigation strategies). More generally, the project will leave a legacy of improved air pollution understanding and research capacity of the Chinese teams, and, through integration with other themes of the Megacities programme, underpin improvements in the health and welfare of the population of Beijing, and across China more widely - ultimately benefitting more than a billion people.

Planned Impact

AIRPOLL-Beijing will quantify the contribution of different industrial, commercial and societal activities to air pollution in Beijing and greatly enhance the Nested Air Quality Model Prediction and Modelling System (NAQPMS) multi-scale 3-D chemical transport model for operational prediction of air quality in Beijing.

Who will benefit:

1. Policymakers: The Chinese Department of Environmental Protection and the municipal/provincial Bureau of Environment Protection who are responsible for policy-making in air quality and for developing emergency control measure in Beijing and the surrounding region will particularly benefit from this project.
2. Business: Businesses will benefit, particularly those that are directly or indirectly affected by air pollution control measures in the Beijing region.
3. General public: There is a growing interest in China in air pollution, particularly particulate matter pollution. This is because haze, mainly caused by particulate pollution, is visible, and serious haze events cause significant health problems to vulnerable groups.

How will they benefit:

1. Policymakers: AIRPOLL-Beijing will provide an improved source apportionment of air pollutants in Beijing and an operational air quality model with online air pollutant source apportionment capacity. The former will be essential for refining the existing air quality policies at the municipal level, while the latter will benefit all levels of environmental protection bodies by predicting air quality and allowing development of emergency control measures to prevent serious haze events. AIRPOLL-Beijing will also provide a definitive example for future integrated work on air pollutant source apportionment in China, and thus improve accuracy of emission inventories and performance of air quality models, which will eventually benefit policy-making in central as well as local governments.
2. Business: The Chinese government has started a national programme to close industrial plants considered to be the highest polluters. A more accurate source-oriented apportionment of air pollutants will ensure that the high polluters are more accurately identified, which will avoid unnecessary shut-down. In addition, under unfavourable meteorological conditions, emergency control measures may be put in place; AIRPOLL-Beijing will provide scientific results and the NAQPMS air quality model to support the development of such measures. Better and more targeted emergency control measures will benefit business by reducing their impact on transportation and by protecting health of staff (so increasing productivity) and by minimizing direct cost due to unnecessary business shut-downs.
3. General public: New knowledge on haze pollution as a result of this project and the existing knowledge and experience of air pollution control from the UK will provide valuable educational information for the general public in China. The general public will also benefit directly from the improved prediction of air quality in Beijing to inform social and economic activities, such as whether or not to partake in outdoor activities.

Addressing ODA objectives:

By providing cost-effective solutions to air quality problems within China, the project will address directly poverty and development issues, and through the application of economic valuations in the Solutions Theme of this programme, will contribute to development of both effective and efficient methods of addressing air pollution. Accurate knowledge of emissions is a key factor underpinning the development of mitigation strategies which will deliver improved public health. Both the UK and Chinese research teams will benefit from their interaction and exploitation of complementary expertise. This will leave a legacy beyond the project lifetime thus increasing the research capacity of the Chinese teams and contributing to the continuous improvement of life and welfare of more than a billion people.


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Description direct measurements of the emissions of CO and NOx were made in Beijing. These were compared to the MEIC 2013 emissions inventory which was found to significantly overestimate emissions for this region, providing evidence that proxy based emissions inventories have positive biases in urban centres. This first set of pollutant fluxes measured in Beijing provides an important benchmark of emissions from the city which can help to inform and evaluate current emissions inventories.
Exploitation Route Further measurements of fluxes in urban centres using the techniques developed during this project will help inform on the performance of different emission inventories.
Sectors Environment,Healthcare

Description Science on TAP presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Science on TAP public presentation in Beijing on the research we are doing as part of the APHH project. 30 minute presentation followed by around 60 minutes of questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017