China's war against smog is no walk in the park. Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

There's still a long way to go, but the Chinese capital has taken a symbolic step forward.

China's war on pollution is starting to make some headway. In the notoriously smoggy Chinese capital of Beijing, air pollution—measured by the concentration of PM2.5 particulate matter—fell by 13 percent during the first quarter of this year.

That's according to a new study by Greenpeace, which also found levels that of PM2.5 fell by 31 percent in the neighboring province of Hebei. In the central Chinese city of Xi'an, PM2.5 concentrations dropped by 48 percent. In contrast, provinces where stricter pollution controls haven't been enacted, such as Henan, Hubei, Hunan and Sichuan, were among the ten most polluted areas for the quarter.

Last year, Chinese premier Li Keqiang declared fcurbing pollution as one of the key necessities for upgrading the Chinese economy. Since then, China has pledged $277 billion toward cleaning up its air, and updated its environmental law to allow for stricter penalties on companies that violate state pollution regulations. Steel and cement production in Hebei, responsible for much of the smog in Beijing, has been reduced—although it has also caused the poor industrial province's economy to take a hit.

The improvement detected by Greenpeace is only a small step forward. "This is the only silver lining in a situation where 90 percent of cities still record levels of pollution that far exceed China's own air quality standards," said Zhang Kai, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, in a statement. The average concentration of PM2.5 for 360 Chinese cities analyzed by Greenpeace was 66 micrograms per cubic meter, almost double the national limit.

There's still a long ways to go, but environmentalists are applauding the fact that Chinese cities are making an effort to be more transparent about pollution levels. Now, 367 Chinese cities are monitoring and disclosing levels of PM2.5 under a recent rule that has set limits on PM2.5 concentrations for the first time—a regulation that will be applied across China as of 2016. According to Greenpeace, "the quantity of city-level air quality data available to the Chinese public now is unprecedented."

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

Kraft Mac & Cheese’s Iconic Blazing Orange Is Going Natural

Ten Vital Tips to Looking Smarter in Meetings

12 Unexplored, Beautiful Holiday Destinations in India

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    Your Maps of Life Under Lockdown

    Stressful commutes, unexpected routines, and emergent wildlife appear in your homemade maps of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

  2. photo: The Pan-Am Worldport at JFK International Airport, built in 1960,
    Design

    Why Airports Die

    Expensive to build, hard to adapt to other uses, and now facing massive pandemic-related challenges, airport terminals often live short, difficult lives.

  3. Life

    The Next Recession Will Destroy Millennials

    Millennials are already in debt and without savings. After the next downturn, they’ll be in even bigger trouble.

  4. photo: an open-plan office
    Life

    Even the Pandemic Can’t Kill the Open-Plan Office

    Even before coronavirus, many workers hated the open-plan office. Now that shared work spaces are a public health risk, employers are rethinking office design.

  5. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Coronavirus

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

×