Clean Air Act

London had its Great Smog in 1952. Although being used to fog this one was more hazardous as ever causing death and illness in the City of London. Beijing has its Great Smog these days. Nothing to be proud of. Air pollution reaches up to 40 times the maximum as being set by the World Health Organization. Beijing sits in the middle of a coal-burning factories belt that expands ever more. The economic growth of China and the demand for electricity will not be the incentive for a cleaner Beijing. What should happen?Having a look at London in 1952 might help. The City of London introduced regulations followed by the Clean Air Act in 1956 only four years after the Great Smog. The Clean Air Act introduced a number of rules to reduce air pollution. For example by introducing ‘smoke control areas’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt. It regulated homes’ heat sources and it included measures to relocate power station away from cities and for the height of some chimneys to be increased. The Great Fog in London was that bad that even polluted air interrupted indoor events. It was simply not possible to see the projection in a cinema any longer. The Clean Air Act made the air in the City much better but it took a long run. In the 60-ies another Big Smog entered the city stage. It takes decades to clean up the air so Beijing better starts now. Another milestone since the Clean Air Act in London of 1956 was the introduction of Congestion Charges in the centre of the city in 2008. Congestion Charge charges high-polluting vehicles 25 pounds each time they pass through Central London’s Congestion Zone. Other vehicles are charged 8 pounds. Under the initiative, some low-emission vehicles can drive through the zone for free. In 2009, air pollution in the City of London was marked as moderate or high on only 12 days, less than a quarter of the 59 days recorded in 1993.

Sources: “Beijing Takes Steps to Fight Pollution as Problem Worsens” January 30, 2013, NRC Handelsblad 04 februari 2013, “Lessen van 100 jaar Smog”,, “Clean Air Act 1956”, “Before and After, Cleaning up our Cities.” Picture above, London 1952, Piccadilly Circus. Picture Below, Beijing 2013.