Over the past week, thick clouds of pollution have brought the capital city to its knees. Officials have had to implement novel measures to control the escalating problem, some unseen for decades. Police are handing out thousands of fines, public transportation networks are at capacity and tourists are staying indoors. The City of Lights is covered in a dim orange glow, the sun blocked by haze.
Paris is seeing some of its worst pollution in decades. Spurred by shifts in weather patterns, the French capital has been blanketed with haze for nearly a week. In response, the government is setting its sights on the automobile. Parisians are being asked to change how they get around. An alternating prohibition on half of all cars (even plate numbers one day, odd the next) began on Friday, although only lasted one day. In addition, public transportation networks are offering free fares to passengers in an effort to assuage the issue.
Moving east to Beijing, the issue of pollution is as pervasive as the Forbidden City is large. By some estimates Paris’ pollution index over the weekend peaked just under 200. Many cities along China’s east coast, however, see indices of over 500 on a regular basis. Any day under 200 is one to throw open the shutters and go to the park, not become global headline news. This does not mean that the events in Paris this past week offer no insight for officials in the Chinese capital. What can Beijing learn from Paris’ approach to solving the problem of pollution in their city?