It's official – coal burning is no longer to blame for PM2.5 levels in Beijing. By shutting down power plants and pushing to replace coal burning with natural gas, the city has managed to bring down its coal consumption levels since 2013.
Cars? Not so much.
A recent study shows that vehicle emissions are the key contributors of the hazardous PM2.5 particles that make up 45 percent of total pollutants, according to People's Daily.
This should come as no surprise, since Beijing has been known for having the highest levels of car ownership in China. As reported by South China Morning Post, the total number of vehicles in the country reached more than 300 million last year – that's almost equivalent to the total US population – with 5.64 million privately owned cars in the capital city alone. This ranks Beijing as one of the most traffic congested cities around the world, 10 of which are in China.
While surrounding areas also contribute a great deal to the city's constant pollution, more than half of all PM2.5 particles are local, according to China News Service.
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The city has made previous efforts to reduce the levels of traffic congestion by encouraging bikes – now a problem of its own – and even monitoring license plates to restrict specific cars from sharing the road on certain days.
With levels of pollution linked to industrial emissions significantly minimizing, here's hoping Beijing officials will now focus their energy on tackling car pollution head on.