One hopeful piece of news is that ‘yellow-label vehicles’ are being phased out within the 5th ringroad since 1 Jan 2009. Those are vehicles that not meet the EURO I standard (current standard for new cars in Beijing is EURO IV) and you may be surprised to hear that there are (or were) 353,800 of them!! That is about 10% of the number of vehicles in Beijing, but they are estimated to produce 50% of the air pollution caused by traffic. Yes, those smoky tricycles and pre-war trucks who you love to be taken over by on your bike- they will become a thing of the past, by giving their owners a subsidy of 25,000 rmb to take them off the road forever. This is a great idea, and maybe the lower average API for January (82: see post below) is already a first result of this, let’s be optimistic.
On the other hand we shouldn’t be too optimistic, because the authorities realise the good results of 2008 will not be duplicated easily in 2009: we had 274 ‘blue sky days’ (API < 101) in 2008 but the target for 2009 is only 260… the battle continues.