Assessing the effectiveness of the air pollution action plan in the Pearl River Delta region

Zhimin Mao of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, USA, analyzed a proposed action plan to cut air pollution in China, showing that enable rapid reduction of air pollution can be achieved.

Zhimin Mao

Zhimin Mao


There are compelling economic and social reasons for the heightened focus throughout China on reducing pollution. Poor air quality is the most visible sign of China’s struggle to control pollution from sources that emit high levels of pollutants, such as the increasing number of vehicles on the road, and the combustion of coal for electricity generation and manufacturing. Poor air quality diminishes productivity, imposes a large burden of illness and premature deaths on the regional economy, and also affects the health of ecological systems.


This research utilizes the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) China model at the sub-national level to explore the implications of different air pollution reduction strategies in the Pearl River Delta region. The GAINS model can quantify the impacts of major air pollutants and greenhouse gases from technology-based solutions [1]. Focusing on the time period up to 2030 in five-year intervals, a new set of control strategies is created based on policies proposed under the Pearl River Delta Air Pollution Reduction and Management Action Plan. Emission reduction and ambient air pollution levels were estimated and assessed against proposed targets.


If we assume full compliance of the proposed action plan by 2020, the SO2, NOx, and PM2.5 emissions will be reduced by 584,300 t/year, 657,900 t/year, and 208,600 t/year, respectively. As a result, the average annual PM2.5 concentration will meet the national class 2 standard, namely, 35 µg/m3.


Comparing these results to those using control strategies proposed in China’s twelfth five-year plan, it is evident that more stringent air pollution control strategies implemented in the near term will not only enable rapid reduction of air pollution, but will also offset future pollution increases resulting from a growth in energy demand.


[1] Amann, M (2012). The GAINS Integrated Assessment Model (pp. 0–43). Retrieved from in pdf/GAINS_Methodologies_Final.pdf


Zbigniew Klimont, Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases Program, IIASA


Zhimin Mao of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, USA, is a citizen of China. She was funded by the Roger Levien Fellowship and worked in the Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases Program during the YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

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Last edited: 09 February 2016

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