An official website of the United States government

July 20, 2021

ESTH Topics

Below is a list of the key Topics/Issues that the Embassy’s Environment, Science, Technology and Health (ESTH) Section follows:

Urban Air Quality in Asia and Beyond

Managing air quality is a common challenge shared by many cities in Asia.  Many are struggling to meet clean air standards. Compare current air quality conditions at the cities below. More information on the health impacts of various pollutants is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at AirNow.  Pollutants measured vary from city to city, but the most common are ozone (O3), inhalable coarse particles (PM10), fine particles (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).   Several U.S. cities have difficulty achieving compliance with U.S. EPA Air Quality Standards. Ozone and PM2.5 are common culprits.

Although PM2.5 exposure has been identified as a more serious health risk than PM10, many countries have not yet mandated PM2.5 monitoring.  The US EPA’s PM2.5 standard for 24-hour limits is 35 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3).   The World Health Organization lowered its PM2.5 guidelines in 2005 to an annual mean of 10 µg/cubic meter and a daily mean of 25 µg/m3.

Below are links to air quality data for particulates in various Asian cities, as well as other large cities, some with histories of air pollution issues.  Many countries do not yet report PM2.5. Notice that some cities provide daily averages, while others provide near-real time hourly data.  Here are some tips on minimizing pollution exposure while exercising, which are useful even if you don’t have access to real time data.
Particulate Air Pollution Data

PM10  – inhalable coarse particles     PM2.5 – inhalable fine particles

U.S. Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor 


Other resources for air quality information 

Studies on health effects of PM2.5 

Exercising in Polluted Air 

Clean Energy and Climate Change

China is the world’s largest energy consumer and the world’s largest emitter of CO2, greater than that of the US and EU combined. It consumes half the world’s annual production of coal which accounts for the majority of its energy supply. However, China continues to make great strides in renewable energy development. China has approximately twice the wind and solar capacity of the US and has committed to sourcing 20% of the country’s energy consumption from renewable energy by 2030.
China is a critical player in initiatives to accelerate the implementation and deployment of clean energy technologies in areas such as renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuel technologies, greenhouse gas reductions and cleaner power generation.

More Related Links:

All links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the U.S. government.

Forests, Wildlife, and Conservation

China is rich in biodiversity and historically has had a natural abundance of forest and wetlands resources.  However, China’s rapid economic development has placed pressure on increasingly limited resources, due to greater consumption by the domestic market, as well as for use by industries in processing goods for export.   The United States Forest Service (USFS)United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are among the many U.S. technical agencies who have taken part in active exchanges with Chinese government counterparts related to sustainable management of these resources.  China is the largest destination country for illegally sourced wildlife products, including elephant ivory, pangolins, and many other products, and demand reduction by changing consumer attitudes is an integral part of the anti-wildlife trafficking campaign.

More Related Links:

All links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the U.S. government.


Embassy Beijing’s ESTH section works closely with the Health and Human Services Attaché in coordination with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)National Institutes of Health (NIH), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to work with China in its to improve public health and address local regional infectious diseases such as influenza,  HIV/AIDS and other emerging infectious diseases.  The U.S. CDC Global AIDS Program (GAP) officers work collaboratively with their China CDC counterparts in infectious disease-related biomedical research.  In the Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) area, the U.S. CDC, U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service, and U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) work closely with Chinese authorities on both the human health and animal health aspects of the issue.

More Related Links:

All links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the U.S. government.

Nuclear Power

China is in the midst of an ambitious nuclear power expansion, intent on building 40 to 60 gigawatts of electrical generation capacity and currently has 22 nuclear power plants under various phases of construction and planning. China is currently fourth in the world in terms of electricity generated by nuclear power but is projected to surpass the U.S. by 2032, as the country with the most nuclear power capacity in the world. To make its goal, China will have to start four to five new reactors a year through 2020. China is expected to account for more than half of the world’s growth in nuclear power through 2040.

The United States and China cooperate on nuclear projects under the umbrella of two agreements: The Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (PUNE) agreement, signed in 1985, which covers cooperation and technology transfers in the nuclear power and fuel cycle areas, and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology (PUNT), signed in 1998 by the United States Department of Energy and China’s National Development and Reform Commission’s predecessor, the State Planning Commission, that more broadly covers cooperation in nuclear technology and export control, nuclear and radiological safety and security, and radioactive waste management.

U.S. Energy Information Administration: World Nuclear Statistics

Department of Energy: U.S. China Energy Collaboration

All links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the U.S. government.


Under the 2003 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA)—now Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), a framework was created for collaboration in the prevention and management of air and water pollution, hazardous waste, pollution from persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other toxic substances such as mercury.

The rise in pollution levels in China coincides with its rapid economic growth.  China has long recognized air pollution as a serious problem.  The ESTH section helps facilitate collaboration between the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with counterpart agencies within China on different aspects of the air pollution issue.

More Related Links:

All links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the U.S. government.


China is facing a major water crisis, with many cities experiencing chronic water shortages, and most areas of the country having significant water quality problems.  More than 60% of surface water is deemed unfit for human contact, while 40% of groundwater is unsafe to drink. Extreme weather events and rapid urban development both strain water supplies and increase the threat of floods.

At current rates of consumption, China’s demand for water resources will overtake its supply by 2030 (2030 Water Resource Group). Already, the Northern provinces—which hold one-third of China’s population and its top agricultural producers—have critically drawn down their groundwater reserves. In response, the government built a $79 billion South-North Water Transfer Project to divert water per year from the Yangtze River in southern China to the north. Now 70% of Beijing’s tap water comes from the south. In late 2016, the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission announced water efficiency targets, consumption caps, tiered pricing for urban areas, and quotas for agriculture and industry. Water shortages would stifle China’s economy—affecting the mining, energy refining, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors.

More Related Links:

All links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the U.S. government.