China is looking to curb its longstanding troubles with air pollution by way of monetary rewards. The country’s State Council, which is the equivalent to the executive cabinet in the U.S., recently announced that it would grant $1.65 billion to any city that makes “significant progress” in bettering their own air quality conditions. In particular, the council is looking for progress with PM2.5 and PM10 particles, which, according to AIRNow, denote “particulate matter” that are small enough to invade human lungs.
Conditions have worsened so drastically in recent years that China’s own Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, a group tasked with annually ranking the livability of 40 world cities, declared Beijing “almost unfavorable for human living,” placing both Beijing and Shanghai in the bottom five livable cities in the world when it comes to environmental conditions. In addition, more than 100 cities in China experienced an average of 29.9 smoggy days last year, reaching a new 52-year high. On the same day these results were announced, 268 micrograms of PM2.5 was measured per cubic meter in Beijing - a full 11 times the amount considered safe by the World Health Organization.
Unfortunately, officials in China have been powerless against self-interest groups in the country, such as oil companies, which have ignored regulations, set their own fuel standards, and wield major influence in drawing up new environmental policies. The State Council, which hopes the new rewards will motivate city officials to set better standards for environmental policies, called for higher quality gasoline, more control over coal consumption, and energy efficiency in the construction industry.