Phasing out coal in Beijing’s heating system
Historically, coal is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in Beijing, used widely for cooking, heating homes and industrial energy production. To tackle this, Beijing implemented an ambitious project to replace polluting coal-fired stoves and boilers with cleaner alternatives in residents’ homes and district heating systems for residential and commercial buildings. The project’s goals are to reduce emissions, improve air quality and safeguard the health of tens of millions of residents.
Since 2016, the city has supported nearly 1 million homes and more than 6,300 boilers to shift away from coal-fired heating to clean and safe alternatives, with generous subsidies for more vulnerable groups such as rural families. The proportion of coal in the city’s total energy consumption has dropped to around 1.5%, compared with 13.7% back in 2015, and coal has been largely phased out from Beijing’s heating system.
The increase in the quality of life of Beijing residents is clear: the annual average PM2.5 pollution concentration has dropped by 59% from 2015 levels, with “heavy pollution” days also falling from 46 to eight days annually. The reduction in outdoor and indoor air pollution has resulted in profound health benefits – especially for women and children – and has greatly reduced the risk of gas poisoning in urban bungalows and rural homes. Thousands of jobs have been created, specifically for women and low-income groups, and residents now enjoy Beijing’s blue skies more regularly.
Mayor of Beijing, Chen Jining, said: “Phasing out coal from its heating system is Beijing’s important endeavour to tackle air pollution. After years of efforts, Beijing has managed to cut its coal use to below 1.5% in the energy mix. This has led to a notable improvement in air quality and helped slash greenhouse gas emissions, paving the way for carbon peak and neutrality. Beijing residents now enjoy blue skies more regularly and are much more satisfied with the environment.”
Rapid electric bus deployment
In the Indian city of Pune, levels of particulate matter are ten times higher than the WHO deems safe for humans to breathe. To tackle this, Pune is taking action to clean the air for its 3.1 million residents through a public transport electrification programme.
Electric buses improve air quality and reduce emissions from petrol and diesel engines, which contribute to global heating and climate breakdown. Since launching the project in 2019, 15% of the city’s buses have been electrified and used by 1.2 million passengers. In September 2022, the city will deploy 244 e-buses to expand its e-bus network, followed by 300 mini e-buses later in 2023. These additions will take Pune’s total e-buses to 950, accounting for 40% of the city’s fleet.
Swapping diesel and petrol vehicles for electric buses has multiple benefits; the city will save ₹656 crores (US $88 million) throughout the fleet’s lifetime, and the emissions savings are equivalent to taking over 3,000 petrol and diesel-fuelled cars off the roads. Pune ensures that all passengers feel safe and able to use the e-buses by operating women-only buses and designing all vehicles to be accessible for people with disabilities. A flat-fare policy capped at less than US 0.08 cents ensures lower-income residents are not excluded, enabling everyone in Pune to ride the fleet for work and leisure.
Municipal Commissioner of Pune, Vikram Kumar, said: “We are delighted to be awarded the C40 award under the ‘cleaning the air we breathe’ category, recognising our efforts towards decarbonising urban mobility. The rapid pace of electrification of our public bus fleet is a testament to our commitment to promoting clean and sustainable modes of transportation. Through this project, we aim to create a replicable model that guides and inspires other cities to take steps towards decarbonising urban mobility and carving a sustainable future.”