Bloomberg News

China Calls on Foreign Embassies to Halt Pollution Data

June 06, 2012

U.S. Embassy in Beijing

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, on May 1, 2012. The U.S. pollution measurements have been a source of tension in China. Photographer: Vincent Thian/AP Photo

China called on foreign embassies to stop publishing data on air pollution levels in the country, saying that the Chinese government has the sole authority to release such information.

Foreign embassies that release such data are interfering in China’s internal affairs, Wu Xiaoqing, a vice minister of environmental protection, told reporters yesterday, according to a transcript posted on the State Council Information Office’s website. Wu didn’t specifically identify the U.S., which publishes hourly pollution readings for the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou on Twitter.

The U.S. pollution measurements have been a source of tension because the data periodically paints a worse picture of pollution levels than do Chinese readings. Data published by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which measures pollutants of 2.5 micrometers in size, contributed earlier this year to a public outcry for China to move more quickly to the same standard.

The monitoring and publication of data on air quality involves the public’s interests and falls under the “authority of the government,” Wu said at the briefing. “We hope that individual consulates in China respect China’s relevant laws and regulations and stop publishing the unrepresentative air quality information.”

‘Unofficial Resource’

In a statement issued yesterday, U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan said the readings are “an unofficial resource for the health of the consulate community.”

Asked about Wu’s remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a briefing in Beijing that embassies can measure air pollution and give the information to their own staff; not broadcast it on the Internet.

Beijing authorities will no longer count the number of so- called blue sky days, and will instead release concentration indexes of major pollutants, the Xinhua News Agency reported today. Days with grade I or II air quality were previously deemed “blue sky days,” the official news service said, citing Yu Jianhua, director of the Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau’s air quality department.

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and second-biggest economy, began releasing its own so-called PM 2.5 data earlier this year after editorials in state-run media said a previous plan to begin publishing the numbers by 2016 was too slow. China has asked 74 cities to install equipment to monitor air quality under the PM 2.5 measure by the end of October and release data by the end of this year, Wu said.

Beijing aims to cut PM 2.5 levels by 15 percent by 2015 compared with 2010 levels, Xinhua said in March.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Feifei Shen in Beijing at fshen11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net; Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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