Smoggy days for London


On chinadialogue this week, environmental campaigner Ma Jun set down his dream for a different kind of China: a clean-air utopia, where citizens can wake up without sore throats, go jogging in the dazzling sunlight and throw out their children’s facemasks. In short, he said, China should aim for what many other global cities – including the British capital – already have. 

How disappointed he would have been to see London yesterday:

London smog

As The Guardian explains here, levels of particulate matter, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and other pollutants hit record highs (since new measuring rules were brought in four years ago) on Thursday, thanks to still weather and dirty air coming in from both north and south. The government has advised the elderly and people with lung and heart problems to avoid “strenuous physical activity” and the population in general to reduce exercise levels. 

The problem may be worse than normal, but this is not a freak event. London, where most of the air pollution comes from traffic fumes, is already facing fines of £300 million (almost 3 billion yuan) for falling short of European Union air quality targets. 

Walking along the street yesterday afternoon, a colleague wondered aloud why the buildings up ahead of us were so hard to see: was it fog or smog? It’s a common question in Beijing too. Next time Londoners are gasping at the horrors of Chinese air pollution (often on the news here these days) we should remember we’re a long way from utopia ourselves. 

Image courtesy of Campaign for Clean Air London