China has produced roughly half of the world’s steel in recent years, but the country’s iron and steel industry is a major source of air pollutants, especially particulate matter, SO2 and NOx emissions. To reduce such emissions, China imposed new emission standards in 2015 and promoted ultralow emission standards in 2019. Here we use measurements from China’s continuous emissions monitoring systems (covering 69–91% of national iron and steel production) to develop hourly, facility-level emissions estimates for China’s iron and steel industry. In turn, we use this data to evaluate the emission reductions related to China’s increasingly stringent policies. We find steady declines in emission concentrations at iron- and steelmaking plants since the 2015 standards were implemented. From 2014 to 2018, particulate matter and SO2 emissions fell by 47% and 42%, respectively, and NOx increased by 3%, even as the production increased by 14%. Moreover, we estimate that if all facilities achieve the ultralow emission standards, particulate matter, SO2 and NOx emissions will drop by a further 50%, 37% and 58%, respectively. Our results thus reveal the substantial benefits of the Chinese government’s interventions to curb emissions from iron and steel production and emphasize the promise of ongoing ultralow emission renovations.
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The CEAIS database that supports the findings of this study is available in Supplementary Tables 1–10 or at http://www.ieimodel.org/. Supplementary Table 2 presents a summary of the CEAIS dataset. The data used in the estimation for emission intensities and total emissions include the smokestack concentrations presented in Fig. 1, Supplementary Figs. 1, 2 and 5, and Supplementary Table 4, the flue-gas rates provided in Supplementary Tables 8 and 9, and the plant-level information provided in Supplementary Table 10.
All computer codes generated during this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.
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We thank L. Wang (Associate Professor of Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences) for satellite data collection and R. Zhen (Professorate Senior Engineer of Capital Engineering & Research Incorporation Ltd.) for helpful discussions on data preprocessing. X.B. acknowledges support from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2019YFE0194500) and the National Research Program for Key Issues in Air Pollution Control (DQGG0209-07). L.T. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71971007). S.W. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71988101). X.C. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (72032006 and 11771012).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Hongyou Lu and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Bo, X., Jia, M., Xue, X. et al. Effect of strengthened standards on Chinese ironmaking and steelmaking emissions. Nat Sustain 4, 811–820 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00736-0