Foreign embassies' air data issuing inaccurate, unlawful: official   2012-06-05 20:11:33

BEIJING, June 5 (Xinhua) -- A foreign embassy's monitoring and issuing of air quality data in China is technically inaccurate and goes against international conventions and Chinese laws, an environment official said Tuesday in Beijing.

Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing said to monitor air quality and release results, which involves the public interest, is the duty of the Chinese government.

"Some foreign embassies and consulates in China are monitoring air quality and publishing the results themselves. It is not in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as well as environmental protection regulations of China," Wu told a press conference.

Wu's remarks came in response to some foreign embassies and consulates in China, specifically, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, monitoring local air quality and publishing the results online.

The move has resulted in fierce public debate, as results released by Beijing's weather forecasting station and the U.S. Embassy often differ -- the U.S. Embassy generally reports worse conditions.

Wu said it is not scientific to evaluate the air quality of an area with results gathered from just only one point inside that area, as the results cannot represent a city's overall air quality.

Wu added that the United States has a total of 1,000 monitoring points for PM2.5, while France and the United Kingdom have 700 and 400 respectively. New York has 20 monitoring points, and Paris and London have 18 and 31 -- making up monitoring networks that can calculate accurate average air quality results.

The daily average PM2.5 results released by Beijing and Shanghai environmental authorities are almost the same with the results published by foreign embassies and consulates, however, the evaluation results differ much as "they use their own countries' standards to assess China's air quality, which is obviously inappropriate," said Wu.

According to Wu, many developed countries have raised their PM2.5 standard step by step. For instance, the United States' PM2.5 standard has increased from the daily average 65 microgram per cubic meter in 1997, to 35 microgram in 2006 when revised.

Wu said China's new standards for air quality, introduced at the beginning of this year, can meet China's current situation as it took into consideration the current development level of China, and also conforms to international standards.

"Environmental quality standards should tally with economic development and technologic conditions," said Wu, adding that China's new air quality standard for PM2.5 is 75 microgram per cubic meter daily average, while other countries' standards are 35 microgram.

The revised air quality standard that includes an index of PM2.5 will be implemented throughout the country by Jan. 1, 2016, although two-thirds of Chinese cities cannot meet the new air quality standard at present.

"According to international conventions, diplomats are obligated to respect and abide by the laws and regulations in their receiving states. In addition, they cannot interfere with the domestic issues of receiving states," said Wu.

Wu said all 74 major cities will from the second half of the year publish more detailed data of air quality, including the reading of PM2.5.

Early this year Beijing began reporting PM2.5, a gauge considered stricter than the PM10 standard, as it monitors "fine" particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter, which is considered more harmful to human health.

Wu added that China will improve the precision of environment monitoring results and the issuance of the results so to meet foreign diplomats and the public's demands for environment quality information.

"We wish those embassies and consulates will respect China's laws and stop publishing air quality data which is not representative," he said.

Editor: Yang Lina
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