Before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, concerns about air quality lead government officials to take drastic measures to reduce air pollution. Its main strategy was to cut the use of cars. Before and during the Olympics, the city restricted vehicle use, taking millions of cars off the road. The measure helped to significantly cut CO2 emissions and improve air quality.
Now, without the spur of the world spotlight, another major Chinese city is looking to cut car use to create a more livable city.
Guangzhou, the country’s third largest city and a major auto manufacturing hub, will halve the number of new cars on its streets using license plate auctions and lotteries, Keith Bradsher reports for the New York Times.
“Of course from the government’s point of view, we give up some growth, but to achieve better health for all citizens, it is definitely worth it,” said Chen Haotian, the vice director of Guangzhou’s top planning agency.
In the past year, concern by the Chinese government for environmental health has increased, and not just by decreasing car use:
Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an environmental group in Beijing, said that local officials had become more interested in the environment in the last year after large street demonstrations against polluting factories in cities like Dalian, Shifang and Qidong. In each case, local officials agreed to halt construction of the projects or close them after becoming the targets of local and national ridicule.
Bernadette Brennan, a senior lawyer in the Beijing office of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that after three decades of experience in China, she had seen change in the last year. Instead of resisting pressure to address pollution, she said, municipal officials have begun contacting her office to seek advice on how to improve.
With so many of the world’s largest cities concentrated in China, health, for millions of people, is on the line. So it’s good to see the Chinese government take these steps in the right direction to improve quality of life.
A Chinese City Moves to Limit New Cars [New York Times]