How is the air quality in Shenzhen?

The below article talks about air quality in the city of Shenzhen in China, how it came to be, along with some frequently asked questions about air quality in China. 

How is the air quality in Shenzhen?

Air quality reports and forecasts show that Shenzhen inhabitants usually experience moderate to healthy levels of air quality. During times of poor air quality, the dominant pollutant is particulate matter, PM2.5, and it currently exceeds 2.1 times higher than the limits set by the WHO. 

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is one of the major cities in China and is a special economic zone in the country. It lies in the southern tip of the country and to the eastern banks of the Pearl River. With just over 3,000 inhabitants in the early 1950s, today Shenzhen has more than 12.5 million inhabitants (WPR, 2021). The average population growth rate in the city is approximately 1.9% per year and has thus become one of the world’s largest metropolitan cities (WPR, 2021). Shenzhen is located in the Guangdong province and has played a major role in transforming into a foreign investment hub and financial center. Over the years, the city transformed from a market town to a city that is on the edge of digital innovation, technology, with manufacturing hubs, and boasting the third busiest container port and fourth busiest airport in the country. 

The city has quite often been referred to as the cultural and economic hub of southern China due to the quick innovations across varying sectors. Known for its culture of volunteering, the city has over 8500 social organizations that aim towards serving the community and towards a better tomorrow. It is one of the most preferred cities of stay for migrants into the country and is considered an excellent tourist city by the state government. Shenzhen’s expansive growth over the years has made it a popular attraction for tourists and city officials have taken specific measures to keep the hub in its peak function to ensure the vitality of the city and its inhabitants. 

Holistic growth and Air Quality in Shenzhen 

The state government in 2010 allotted Shenzhen to be among other cities and provinces that were tasked to building and implementing low-carbon growth solutions which could be applied across various sectors from transportation, industrial activities, renewable energy solutions, construction projects, environmental conservation, and protection, etc. The state government’s aim in doing so was to slowly introduce projects into the city that would promote low-carbon growth within the city, and across the country eventually. In tasking specific cities to come up with these plans, the state government hoped to encourage city actors and stakeholders to start preparing its low-carbon development frameworks. 

Shenzhen became a special economic zone approximately 40 years ago, in an attempt to compete with Hong Kong, economically and market-growth-wise, and through this action, the state government hoped that the allotted zone would be able to inculcate the country’s ever-growing market needs, especially in the manufacturing industry. Since its selection to introduce low-carbon plans, Shenzhen has developed two main frameworks to achieve the same. The first plan, introduced in 2012 included an analysis and recommendations on starting low carbon projects into the city, while the second plan published in 2017 was a report stating how the projects enforced could be improved and which sectors would need to plug gaps and increase their action’s efficiencies. The 2017 plan included further policy and other frameworks that aimed to address several concerns including near-zero carbon emissions strategies, supporting structures for the enforced projects, monitoring and evaluation systems, action groups to enforce recommendations that would eventually arise, etc. 

A 2019 study conducted showed that the highest carbon emissions in Shenzhen originated from traffic, power plants, and manufacturing processes, contributing 65.1%, 19.1%, and 3.4% in carbon emissions, respectively (Wiedenbach A., 2021). The study came with recommendations and suggestions to stakeholders to turn their attention to these specific sectors, as they held a major stake in achieving the city’s plans of low-carbon growth. Eventually, in 2021, the Shenzhen Ministry of Environment and Ecology started soliciting public opinions for their proposed five-year plan, which focused on projects that would address varying concerns such as achieving carbon neutrality, creating or maintaining carbon sinks, addressing large scale emissions, increasing climate resiliency, climate mitigation as an opportunity for economic development, etc. 

Shenzhen had been one of the forefront cities in China that had been adopting environment-friendly measures to address climate concerns, and these actions included early adoption of electric vehicles, electrifying the public transport systems, etc. Its actions had been so commendable that the city was praised for an accumulated reduction of 280,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2009 and 2015, and another 100,000 tonnes of fuel saved by just promoting alternatively fueled vehicles. Various subsidies were provided by the state government to achieve the excellent results that are observed today. 

By the end of the year 2017, Shenzhen had fully electrified its public bus system, with 16,359 electric buses on the roads of the city. By the end of the next year, the city had over 20,000 fully electric taxis, which contributed to the saving of over 70% of the energy that would have been consumed by the traditional combustion systems in a taxi, and this action reduced the city’s annual emission by 856,000 tons (Wiedenbach A., 2021). Over the years, the city has been able to reduce energy intensity while increasing output using several strategies.

Shenzhen is also one of seven locations to pilot a local form of the Emissions Trading System, where the city created the first Chinese carbon market with a functioning trading mechanism for carbon emission allowances between the city’s largest stakeholders. First launched in 2013, the trading system by the end of 2016, had 635 out of the 636 enterprises in the carbon trading control system, who had completed the necessary carbon trading compliance process. 

The results of the trading systems were observed as early as 2015, when CO2 emissions of the involved companies fell by 5.81 million tons, a drastic reduction of 18.2% since 2010. Carbon trading systems were introduced in the city as a stepping stone to low-carbon efforts taken in the city, which became a major reason as to why the country has been moderately successful in reducing its annual emissions. In a similar manner, the city introduced a different framework known as the Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP); a system that would be used to measure the city’s future potential in terms of economic development. This system would capture the various elements that played into the city’s overall growth including the value of goods utilized, the value of services supplied, etc. 

Shenzhen’s change from a small town to the remarkable metropolitan city that it is today with one of the lowest air pollution rates, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Even by being one of the most occupied cities in the country, the water and energy consumption rates in this wealthy city have been the lowest. The actions taken by the Shenzhen government and city actors to join forces in economic development and ecological and environmental preservation could serve as reminders to all that development does not necessarily mean destruction. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How is the air quality in Shenzhen?

What are the air quality levels observed across Shenzhen?

Source: IQAir. 30 January 2022

1Yuexing 3rd Road44
3Overseas Chinese Town31
4Rule of the people31
8Nanhai Substation29

Which cities in China have the worst air quality?

Source: IQAir. 30 January 2022

1Wujiaqu, Xinjiang380
2Ordos, Inner Mongolia339
3Shihezi, Xinjiang287
4Changji, Xinjiang273
5Urumqi, Xinjiang258
6Tianchang, Hebei247
7Fangshan, Beijing240
8Liangxiang, Beijing230
9Baoding Shi, Hebei229
10Mentougou, Beijing227

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IQAir. (2022, January 30). Real-time China city ranking. Live AQI city ranking. Viewed on 01-30-2022. 

IQAir. (2022, January 30). Real-time Shenzhen air quality ranking. Live Shenzhen AQI Ranking. Viewed on 01-30-2022. 

Wiedenbach A. (2021, June 13). Spotlight: Shenzhen has transformed to one of China’s cities with the lowest air pollution rate. China News Brief and Action Alert. Climate Scorecard. Viewed on 01-30-2022. 

World Population Review (WPR). (2021). Shenzhen Population 2021. Viewed on 01-30-2022.