China diesel emissions standards

Beijing, China
Traffic in Beijing, China

Air pollution from diesel vehicles have serious impacts for health – as a component of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – and the climate, from black carbon (or soot) emissions. Over the past two decades, China has pursued an ambitious national effort to control diesel emissions. China’s comprehensive suite of diesel emission control policies and programs is a best practice template for how any region—developed or developing—can address the climate and health impacts of diesel engines.

One example is China’s China VI emission standard for new heavy-duty vehicles. Released in June 2018, the standard is equivalent to, or in some aspects even more stringent, than the current European standards (Euro VI). The new standard will make it mandatory for all new diesel heavy-duty vehicles introduced to the market after July 2021 to be fitted with diesel particulate filters (DPF). If effectively implemented, it will transition all new heavy-duty vehicles in China to soot-free emission levels.

Since China is the world’s largest heavy-duty vehicle market, this action signifies a tremendous milestone in the global transition to a soot-free vehicle fleet. As a result of China’s action two-thirds of all new heavy-duty vehicles globally will be soot-free in 2021, compared with 50% if China took no action.

The China VI standard is a major step forward in helping China win its battle against air pollution and protecting human health. Its implementation will result in substantial mid-term and long-term emission reductions. By 2030, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions from heavy-duty vehicles will be cut by 82% and 86%, respectively. More than 29,000 premature deaths will be avoided in 2030 as a result of reduced exposure to PM2.5 and ozone pollution. The health benefits of China VI will continue to increase after 2030 as a growing share of heavy-duty vehicles meet the standards.

There will also be substantial climate co-benefits. The near-term warming impacts of black carbon from diesel are up to 3,200 times greater than CO2. Since black carbon particles are short-lived, meaning they remain in the atmosphere only a few weeks, reducing their emissions could have an immediate benefit by slowing the rate of climate change.

China also leads the world in terms of public vehicle fleet electrification. The city of Shenzhen has made its entire bus fleet electric, and nationally more than 30% of the total bus fleet is now electric. A new policy requires manufacturers that sell more than 30,000 vehicles to achieve increasingly stringent New Energy Vehicle credits starting in 2019. New Energy Vehicles include plug in hybrids, battery electric, or fuel cell vehicles.

China’s progress was enabled by the collective efforts over many years of a coalition of partners from government, research institutes, universities, and non-profit organizations. Five key partners were collectively nominated for the 2018 CCAC award including:

  • China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) for leading the formulation and adoption of all related policies, including standards, high-polluting vehicle retirement plans, clean fuel deployment plans, and emissions failure penalties.
  • The Vehicle Emission Control Center of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, as a leading think tank associated with MEE and for directly supporting MEE’s policy research.
  • Tsinghua University’s School of Environment. Tsinghua started research in 2012 with a group of leading research organizations on a national clean diesel campaign.
  • The Energy Foundation China’s Transportation Program. Energy Foundation China raised the idea to develop the National Clean Diesel Campaign, supported the key stakeholders (including government and research organizations) to work together and reach alignment, funded policy research, and provided technical support and consulting services.
  • The International Council on Clean Transportation. The ICCT provided technical support and international experience.