China Environmental News Alert
Posted July 4, 2013
NRDC has been working in China for over fifteen years on such issues as energy efficiency, green buildings, clean energy technologies, environmental law, and green supply chain issues. This China Environmental News Alert is a compilation of news from around the world on China and the environment.
June 28, 2013 - July 5, 2013
When economic growth and environmental protection are in conflict, “we have to give up economic development because protection of the environment and sustainable development are more important than pursuing economic growth,” Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said yesterday. Hau was speaking to a group of EMBA students in Shanghai as part of the Taipei-Shanghai City Forum to which the mayor was leading a delegation to attend. Hau had been an environment minister before becoming mayor of Taiwan's capital city.
The largest algal bloom ever recorded in China has turned the Yellow Sea green and may be related to pollution from agriculture and industry. Officials in the city of Qingdao had used bulldozers to remove 7,335 tonnes of the growth from beaches according to the Xinhua news agency. The phenomenon has become an annual occurrence in the region over the past six summers. This year's incident has swathed 28 900 sq km (11 158 sq miles), twice as much as the previous biggest bloom in 2008.
Few countries are unaffected by China’s overseas investments. The country’s outward foreign direct investments (OFDI) have grown from $29 billion in 2002 to more than $424 billion in 2011. While these investments can bring economic opportunities to recipient countries, they also have the potential to create negative economic, social, and environmental impacts and spur tension with local communities. To address these risks, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and Ministry of Environment (MEP)—with support from several think tanks—recently issued Guidelines on Environmental Protection and Cooperation.
China is unlikely to meet its 2015 target for shale gas production after slower than expected development of initial shale gasfields, according to energy executives and analysts, throwing into question the prospects of a resource critical to China’s energy future. China has the largest technically recoverable reserves of shale gas in the world – as much as Canada and the US combined – but actual development under the state-dominated oil sector has been slow. Beijing has tried to inject competition into the sector and attract fresh funding sources by publicly auctioning shale gas blocks, but none of those projects has yet been commercially successful.
In many ways, the evolution of Chinese agriculture over the past 40 years is a remarkable success story. Spurred by investments in research and government subsidies for fertilizers and other farm technologies, China now feeds 22% of the world's population on just 9% of its total arable land. But as a special collection of papers in the July-August issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality (JEQ) points out, these achievements have come at a cost.
The government-affiliated All-China Environment Federation was reported to have charged and accepted heavy polluters as its members, fueling doubts over whether it can adequately represent the interests of the public. The body, under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, is named as the only organization that is able to file lawsuits closely linked to the public interests against polluters in the latest draft aiming to amend the country's Environmental Protection Law.
Many traditional Chinese herbal medicines sold in western countries contain a "cocktail" of pesticide residues which exceed safe levels, research by Greenpeace suggests. Testing of 36 samples of herbal products imported from China, including chrysanthemum, wolfberry, honeysuckle, dried lily bulb, san qi, Chinese date and rosebud, found 32 contained residues of three or more pesticides.
On June 14th, the State Council’s Executive Meeting, which is chaired by Premier Li Keqiang and includes the heads of each governmental department and agency, released a statement detailing ten measures that China will take concerning air pollution and control. News outlets generally heralded the measures as new, though in actuality some of the measures were previously published in the“12th Five Year Guideline on Air Pollution Prevention and Control for the Key Regions” (重点区域大气污染防治“十二五”规划) released in December 2012. Even though most of the State Council statement rehashed previous documents, there were several important updates.
An airport that is under construction in a primitive forest in central China's Hubei Province has provoked the ire of environmentalists, although others believe the airport will improve local living standards. The Shennongjia Nature Reserve is home to more than 3,700 species of plants and at least 1,050 kinds of animals. At least 40 of its plant species and 70 of its animal species are under state protection. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Shennongjia to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1990.
Turkmenistan's southeastern desert, not far from the border with Afghanistan, is a forbidding place. Its bleak, dusty vistas are punctuated by the ruins of ancient caravansaries: once rest stops on the old Silk Road. But, the silence of that long lost East-West artery is now regularly broken by the rumble of Chinese truck convoys. These are not ordinary tractor-trailers, either: they move slowly carrying massive loads of natural gas extraction equipment, and according to Turkmen officials, the shepherds' bridges and village roads have had to be reinforced from the impact of their weight. The equipment is headed to one of the top five natural gas fields in the world; Formerly known as South Yolotan-Osman, in 2011 the field was renamed "Galkynysh" or "revival" in Turkmen. The name is apt because this gargantuan reserve of natural gas is the prize motivating CNPC, China's largest oil company, to revive the old Silk Road -- only this time by pipeline.
(CENA prepared by Jack Marzulli)
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