Sources and Emissions of Air Pollutants in Beijing (AIRPOLL-Beijing)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects


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.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/N006992/1 25/01/2016 01/12/2019 £159,316
NE/N006992/2 Transfer NE/N006992/1 02/12/2019 01/02/2020 £10,078
Description Data analysis of two campaign of direct measurements of the emissions above Beijing is still ongoing, but results to date indicate that:

a) emissions of fine particulate matter within the city itself are very much dominated by cooking sources (probably dominated by emissions from cooking oils) rather than vehicle or industrial sources. In fact, vehicle emissions of primary aerosol in Beijing city centre are quite small, reflecting the considerable effort China has already made in reducing the emissions from this source. Our results indicate that control of emissions from cooking sources would be a useful strategy for reducing inner city emissions and concentrations, providing important guidance for China's policy on reducing health and economic impacts of air pollution whilst safeguarding continued economic growth.

b) there are significant emissions of ammonia in the city centre, with ammonia being an important precursor of particulate matter. The results suggest that better treatment / containment of sewage may be effective in reducing the impact of air pollution.
Exploitation Route This finding has important implications for cleaning up particulate pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities. The main contribution to the dust originates from industrial sources OUTSIDE the city. WITHIN the city there appears to be little additional scope in reducing pollution by tackling vehicle sources. Instead, the control of emissions from cooking (not the fuel, but the food itself, in particular cooking oils) could be looked at. As this could potentially be done at moderate costs it provides a means to improve air quality without economic burden or restricting development. This finding has the potential for contributing to the improvement of air quality in China, but may also be true for other developing cities in Asia.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description The impact of AIRPOLL science will still need time to materialise. However, in terms of training, we have hosted a 20-strong delegeation of the China Meteorological Aministration at CEH. In addition, the project team has helped collaborators from Nanjing University in initiating VOC flux measurements above the China sea.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Title Pollutant concentration, pollutant fluxes and meteorological parameters measured 102 m above Beijing 
Description Concentrations and fluxes of H2O, CO2, NH3, O3 and particles (number and composition resolved) made during two 5-week campaigns on the IAP tower in Beijing. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Database still being exploited. 
Description Joint measurements on the IAP tower, Beijing 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Department Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP)
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CEH conducted flux measurements of a range of pollutants from a height of 102 m on IAP's 325 m tower in Beijing. It provided a dataset of aerosol chemical composition at 102 m for joint analysis.
Collaborator Contribution IAP provided the access to the tower, meteorological data and datasets of aerosol chemical composition from 325 m and ground level for joint analysis and intercomparison.
Impact Dataset of aerosol composition at various heights above Beijing and a comprehensive dataset of pollutant fluxes above Beijing.
Start Year 2016
Description China Meteorological Administration visit to CEH 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 20-strong delegation from the China Meteorological Administration visited CEH Edinburgh for a day to gain insights into the atmospheric chemistry and effects research by CEH. This included scientific presentation of our research conducted in and relevant to China as well as a site visit to our experimental falcities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017