According to Chinese government figures, in 2001 approximately one third (34.4%) or 117 among the 340 cities under environmental monitoring were up to second-grade standard in terms of air quality, down 1.2 percentage points from the preceding year 2000. 114 cities were up to the third-grade standard, constituting 33.5 %, up 3.6 percentage points; and the rest that failed to reach the third-grade standard made up 32.1 %, down 2.3 percentage points.
Particles remained to be the main air pollutant in Chinese cities. Of the 47 key cities designated for environmental protection, some suffered worsening sulfur dioxide pollution and the proportion of cities that surpassed the set standard increased.
Half (50.5%) of of the 273 cities that conducted monitoring of community noise from road traffic enjoyed more comfortable living environment as compared to the standard set for acoustic noise in urban living quarters, 40% reported some noise pollution and 9.5% suffered serious noise pollution.
These figures reflect to a large degree the other side of the positive trend of increasing private car ownership in the bigger cities of China. They show the high priority of the introduction of national and international sustainable technologies which guarantee the comfort of private car travel but solve the problem of air and noise pollution.
The concentration of atmospheric CO2 has risen sharply
Since the beginning of the industrial era, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 has risen sharply, essentially due to human activity, mainly the combustion of fossil energy and deforestation. The approximately 600 millions cars worldwide and their exhaust have contributed a lot towards the fact that today the amount has reached 355 ppm (parts per million), the highest it has been in more than 200,000 years.
The 1997 Kyoto Conference on Climate Change developed the concept of "Carbon Sinks" by creating natural reservoirs to absorb the CO2. Peugeot Co. of France took up the idea and started in 1999 to plant several milliar trees of 30 different local species in the Brazilian Amazon area. With an investment of 10 millions euros, more than 7 millions metric tons of CO2 will be taken out of the atmosphere and stored in the trees, thus preventing this toxic gas to increase the Greenhouse effect leading to global warming. By integrating the project into the local socio-economic environment and by setting up a scientific monitoring system Peugeot was careful to assure the sustainability of the project.
"A sustainable society is one that can persist over generations, one that is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough not to undermine either its physical or its social systems of support. In order to be socially sustainable, the combination of population, capital, and technology in the society would have to be configured so that the material living standard is adequate and secure for everyone. In order to be physically sustainable the society's material and energy throughputs would have to meet three conditions: Its rates of use of renewable resources do not exceed their rates of regeneration; its rates of use of nonrenewable resources do not exceed the rate at which sustainable renewable substitutes are developed; and its rate of pollution emission do not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment."