Since 2018, in the three years of the implementation of the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法) , 103 regulations have been amended and 27 measures in the Air Pollution Control Plan (空氣污染防制方案) have been carried out. Under the combined efforts of central and regional authorities, the percentage of readings with “good” or “moderate” air quality index (AQI ≦ 100) during a single year exceeded 90% for the first time in 2021. For stationary pollution sources of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the total registered air pollution control fees due in 2021 was 32% less than that in 2016. As for mobile sources of SOx, NOx, and VOCs, there was a 26% drop. Thus, both stationary and mobile pollution sources are showing significant decreasing trends.
The EPA says it has endeavored to continually improve air quality by targeting factories, vehicles, and construction sites in the past few years based on the Air Pollution Control Plan. Compared with 2016, the results are a 45% drop in air pollution from large state-run corporations and an accumulation of nearly 40% of large old diesel vehicles retired from operation. Local emissions have been largely cut, and the sky is no longer gray even during the high air pollution season.
Observations of air quality in central and southern Taiwan during 2021 showed that PM2.5 in the central region dropped from 18.3μg/m3 in 2019 to 16.4μg/m3 in 2021 and PM2.5 in the Kaohsiung-Pingtung region from 17.7μg/m3 to 15.6μg/m3. The number of days with “unhealthy” AQI in the nine counties and cities in the central and southern regions went from 73 days in 2020 to 58 days in 2021, clear evidence of improved air quality.
1. Air quality improvement results and legislative revisions
On 1 August 2018, the revised Air Pollution Control Act was announced, along with the Air Pollution Control Plan (2020-2023). Under the Plan, there are 27 measures covering stationary source controls, fugitive source controls, mobile source controls, and comprehensive control strategies.
Since the implementation of the revised Act, the Plan has seen revisions, formulation, or annulment of 103 regulations, most of which focus on strengthening controls and ameliorating pollution sources. The actions include revising air quality standards, categorizing and designating control zones, and specifying behaviors which cause air pollution during periods of deteriorating air quality. Newly set are: standards for fuels used by mobile sources; pollution emission standards for mobile sources; subsidies for replacing old motorcycles; standards for mixing burning ratios, and; contents of fuels used by stationary sources in private and public venues. Other regulatory areas affected include: Regulations Governing Alert Issuance and Emergency Response for Deteriorating Air Quality; the guidelines to cut pollution emitted from existing stationary sources in Class 3 control zones; the best available control technologies for stationary sources; regulations for air pollution control facilities for the restaurant industry; Regulations for Construction Project Air Pollution Control Facilities, and; emission standards for harmful air pollutants from stationary sources.
Air pollution controls have been enforced continuously. For the registered amount of air pollution controls for SOx, NOx, and VOCs, it is evident from analysis that in 2021, the amount emitted from stationary sources was less than that in 2016 by 32%, and the amount emitted from mobile sources was less than that in 2015 by 26%. Both show a downward trend. The following are detailed results of air pollution controls:
(1) Of the 5,565 industrial and non-industrial boilers targeted for improvement, as of 2021, 98% (6,877 boilers) had been improved since the measures took effect in 2018.
(2) Measures are in place to promote various improvements for Phases 1-to-3 large, old diesel vehicles. Since the measures were introduced in 2017, 56,685 -- more than 40% of existing large, old diesel vehicles -- have been replaced.
(3) The EPA is endeavoring to phase out roughly 4.74 million old motorcycles. Since the efforts began in 2020 to the end of 2021, roughly 27% (1.298 million) of the total target has been phased out.
(4) As of August 2021, there were 697 large passenger vehicles (not including tourist buses) in operation.
(5) As Taiwan burns around 200,000 metric tons of joss paper every year, measures are carried out to promote centralized burning and subsidize the setup of environmentally friendly furnaces. The goal is to reduce the amount of joss paper burning by roughly 10%. Between January and December 2021, 21,000 metric tons of joss paper had been burned in centralized locations.
(6) The EPA is aiming to improve 1,500 small-to-medium-size restaurants every year. As many as 2,871 had been assisted in 2021, an achievement of 105% of the target.
(7) Evaluations and control measures are to be continually carried out (measured starting in May to the end of April the following year) on approximately 2,000 hectares of exposed riverbeds. From May 2021 to the end of February 2022, progress had been made on 2,080 hectares.
Furthermore, the Air Pollution Control Plan focuses on controlling emissions of primary particulate pollutants, SOx, NOx, and VOCs. For 2023, the EPA aims to lower the national average concentration of PM2.5 to 15μg/m3 and will set annual goals based on reviews of progress made and previous plans for air quality improvement.
2. Supervising local governments to draft respective air pollution control plans
(1) On 1 June 2020, the Air Pollution Control Plan (2020 to 2023) was announced for the regional level. Accordingly, local governments are to draft their respective control plans based on regional factors for the EPA’s approval. On the EPA’s invitation, a panel of experts and scholars helped evaluate the plans, holding 25 meetings and approving the local control plans of eight counties and cities.
(2) Based on the control plans of all county and city governments combined, it is estimated that a total of 175,000 metric tons of emissions of PM2.5, NOx, SO2, and VOCs will be reduced from 2020 to 2023. Using 2019 as the baseline, it is estimated that there will be a 20% cumulative reduction of pollutant emissions.
3. Publishing the Taiwan Emission Data System (TEDS) 11.0
On 1 July 2021, the TEDS11.0, with 2019 set as the baseline year, was published on the EPA’s website (https://teds.epa.gov.tw/), available for downloading. Compared with contents in TEDS10.1, which sets 2016 as the baseline year, air pollutant emissions have shown significant drops, including a 26% decrease of PM2.5 emissions, 40% of SOx emissions, 22% of NOx emissions, and 10% of non-methane hydrocarbon (NMHC) emissions. It took a year and nine months to complete editing and checking relevant emission data that covers the entire country (Taiwan proper, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu) and calculate the estimated emission amounts of individual pollution sources by category. The editing time was much shorter (by more than a year) than that of previous versions.
4. Emergency controls and operations for air quality deterioration
Regarding seasonal poor air quality in certain regions, the EPA has considered the response practices of local governments, as well as joint efforts by upwind counties and cities for large-area response. As a result, on 3 March 2022 the revised Regulations Governing Emergency Measures to Prevent Deteriorating Air Quality (空氣品質嚴重惡化緊急防制辦法) were announced. First, the name has been changed to Regulations Governing Alert Issuance and Emergency Response for Deteriorating Air Quality (空氣品質嚴重惡化警告發布及緊急防制辦法). Key revisions include tightening the requirements for emission reduction, increasing the number of targets subject to compulsory emission reduction, lowering the qualifications for establishing a command center, authorizing the formulation of response measures against mobile sources, and requiring cooperation from upwind counties and cities in reducing emissions.
The Regulations mainly mandate administrative offices and private and public premises to take short-term response measures and, at the same time, notify the public to increase self-protection measures in order to help maintain air quality. These revisions were made after taking into account recent air quality improvements. The number of incidents of severe air pollution where the Air Quality Index surpassed 200 have been substantially reduced, thus attention has now turned to reducing the number of red alerts (AQI>150), as well as focusing more on reducing the frequency of short-term air quality deterioration. At the same time, to meet the requirement of making a three-day air quality forecast instead of a forecast for only the following day, the time to activate a response mechanism has been moved up.
Additionally, several large pollution sources have now become new targets required to lower their emissions. These include coal-burning power plants, combined heat and power (CHP) plants, the steel smelting industry, the petrochemical industry, and privately and publicly run incinerators. It is clearly stated that local governments can draw up response measures for vehicles based on traffic developments and situations within individual regions under their jurisdictions. This way, both factories and vehicles operators can share responsibilities for lessening pollution. Finally, large-scale transmission is a characteristic of air pollution. With references to the “Good Neighbor Clause,” under the revisions, upwind counties and cities are mandated to reduce pollution during periods of poor air quality so as to reduce the number of pollutants carried downwind.
Looking to the future, the EPA hopes that the central and local governments will work together on the Air Pollution Control Plan to protect the public’s health by keeping the average national annual concentration of pollutants below 15μg /m3 in 2023. The long-term improvement strategy involves performing ongoing multiple tasks via the implementation of various air pollution prevention and control measures. It is hoped that everyone, including both public and private entities, can support and coordinate with these efforts.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, March 2022
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)