Beijing will enact China's strictest vehicle-fuel standards early next year. Among other things, China's capital city will lower the maximum sulfur allowance in light-duty vehicle fuel in an effort to cut vehicle emissions by as much as 20 percent. Earlier this month, the Beijing government announced a plan to retire more than 400,000 mini buses and trucks by the end of next year.

According to Reuters and the Xinhua news agency, China is planning to enact its "National Five" emissions mandate that approximates the Euro V emissions standards by early next year, but Beijing will take this effort a few steps further.

Last December, a series of particularly bad-air days forced Beijing officials to enforce driving restrictions that cut the maximum number of allowed vehicles in the city in half. At the time, particulate matter in some parts of Beijing was more than 40 times the levels the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed acceptable.

Earlier this month, WHO put out a list of pollution levels in the world's largest cities, and found that Beijing was actually middle-of-the-pack when it came to China's urban air pollution. Earlier this year, we posted a video of a drive through Zhengzhou, in which drivers could only see a few feet in front of their vehicles because of the thick smog.

In fact, Beijing's average concentration of PM2.5 — small particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, fell six percent last year and dropped 10 percent in 2014. That said, Beijing's pollution was measured by WHO to be more than three times as bad as California's Central Valley, which had the worst air quality in the US.

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