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Greenlaw from NRDC China’s Blog

China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China

Posted August 28, 2013 in Greening China

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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.

August 24 - 29, 2013

 Information disclosure body established

Global Times (August 26, 2013)

A federation aimed to promote government information disclosure was established at the China University of Political Science and Law over the weekend, in an effort to push forward related regulations and provide legal services. The federation with the Research Center for Government by Law consists of experts, lawyers, media professionals and volunteers. “The federation will publicize legal knowledge and provide consultation for those who need to apply for disclosure by integrating various resources,” Wang Jingbo, deputy director with the research center, told the Global Times. Wang noted that experts will focus on theoretical study to improve the disclosure system and the lawyers are to raise public awareness and offer legal assistance.

Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilization [Report]

UNDP (August 27, 2013)

Framed in the context of urbanisation, the 2013 NHDR examines the interconnectivity between China’s economic, social and environmental challenges, and stresses that all three are pillars contributing to the government’s focus on human development. According to this report, China’s urbanisation comes at a critical time on all three fronts, with pressures accumulating in matters such as the efficient use of natural and energy resources, the development of urban governance systems, employment, transportation, housing and access to basic social services, security, the livelihoods of migrant workers, an ageing population, structural economic transformation, and air and water pollution. How urbanisation is managed in China will determine the outcome of many of these challenges. Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilisation reports a host of findings and policy recommendations concerned with China’s management of urbanisation. 

China Needs $6.8 tn to Fuel Urbanisation

International Business Times (August 28, 2013)

China would have to spend no less than $6.8tn over the next two decades to integrate hundreds of millions of rural families expected to become urban dwellers by 2030. Over one billion Chinese, or 70% of the country's population, are forecast to settle in cities by 2030. The required investment to improve housing quality and living conditions could surge past 75 trillion yuan (£7.9tn, €9.17tn, $12.25tn), a United Nations report estimated. China's nominal GDP was 51.9 trillion yuan in 2012. Government estimates that the cost of integration would work out to 80,000 yuan for one person. Barring pension expenses, the cost would hover around 46,000 yuan, according to the report entitled Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilisation.

China power sector emissions to 'peak in 2027' - report

The Guardian (August 27, 2013)

Greenhouse gas emissions from China's energy industry are likely to peak in 2027 as renewable energy and gas play an increasingly dominant role in the country's energy mix. That is the conclusion of a major new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) that predicts renewables, including large-scale hydroelectric projects, will contribute more than half of new capacity through to 2030 as the country's total power generation more than doubles. The report predicts that under the most likely scenario for the country's energy sector, dubbed the "New Normal", more than 1,500 GW of energy capacity will be added through to 2030 driven by investment totaling $3.9 tr. Annually, 88 GW of new capacity will be added each year -- equivalent to the total generating capacity of the UK.

Fire and Water: China's Looming Coal Problem

Bloomberg/WRI (August 26, 2013)

To maintain its economic growth and provide for its massive population, China must reconcile two powerful, converging trends: energy demand and resource scarcity. One prime example of this tension is the country’s coal use and water supply. According to a new WRI analysis, more than half of China’s proposed coal-fired power plants are slated to be built in areas of high or extremely high water stress. If these plants are built, they could further strain already-scarce resources, threatening water security for China’s farms, other industries, and communities. As of July 2012, China’s government planned 363 coal-fired power plants for construction across China, with a combined generating capacity exceeding 557 gigawatts (for reference, installed capacity at the end of 2012 was 758 GW. This amounts to an almost 75 percent increase in coal-fired generating capacity. China already ranks as world’s largest coal consumer, accounting for almost 50 percent of global coal use.

China's Lofty Goals for Shale Gas Development Just Pipe Dreams, Experts Say

Caixin (August 26, 2013)

China wants to reap the benefits of a shale gas revolution similar to the one in the United States, but there are many obstacles to this happening, experts say. In the first half of 2013, 56 shale gas wells were in the exploratory phase in the country, but only 24 were producing gas. Only six wells – all dug by either China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec Group) or China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) – had daily output capacity of 10,000 cubic meters or more. And all the shale gas blocks sold in the most recent round of auctioning were in the early phases of prospecting, meaning they had not produced a drop. The latest five-year plan set for the shale gas industry was laid out in 2011. It set a production goal of 6.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas by 2015, but many industry insiders say this will be hard to achieve.

Burning Issues in Air Pollution

Caixin (August 23, 2013)

Hidden beneath a recent debate on an air pollution study are questions on the limits of scientific research in China. Air pollution has become a major public health issue in the country, but barriers to research continue to overshadow information on its negative impacts. A paper by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tsinghua University, Peking University and Hebrew University found that the use of coal for heating among China's northerners led to a cut in life expectancy by at least five years in the 1990s compared to those in the south. The conclusion sparked uproar among government officials and researchers. The findings, titled, "Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China's Huai River Policy," were published in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' official journal. ...The fact that more than three decades of China's rapid economic development created sweeping environmental degradation has long been recognized. But for many years, there has been little government acknowledgment of linkages between environment-related health problems. Research in China has also been limited by restrictions on environmental and health statistics, in addition to a lack of support for funding such studies.

New coal-fired power stations in Guangdong ‘will kill thousands’

South China Morning Post (August 28, 2013)

Emissions from new coal-fired power stations planned in Guangdong could cause as many as 16,000 deaths in the next 40 years, research by an air-pollution specialist indicates. The "shocking" findings have brought a call for the province to wind back plans for the 22 additional stations and return to a 2009 policy of no new coal-fired plants in the Pearl River Delta. The estimates were made by Dr Andrew Gray, an American private air quality consultant commissioned by Greenpeace to study the health impact of the new plants' emissions of fine particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometres. The extra deaths would add to an already heavy health toll - put at 3,600 deaths and 4,000 cases of child asthma in 2011 alone - from the 96 coal-fired plants already in operation in the province and Hong Kong.

Could China's 'green fence' prompt a global recycling innovation?

The Guardian (August 27, 2013)

China sent shock waves through the global recycling market this year when it announced it would no longer be accepting poorly sorted or dirty shipments of recyclable waste from foreign exporters. It's estimated that more than 800,000 tonnes of recyclables or scrap have been rejected since February via Operation Green Fence, China's first major campaign to enforce its stringent waste quality legislation. This has caused chaos at some ports, where Chinese customs officials conducting rigorous checks have suspended the import licences of 247 companies. As western exporters scramble to ensure the commercial viability of this dynamic market, worth $5bn (£3.2bn) annually in plastic scrap alone, will this new crackdown prompt a wave of sustainable recycling innovation in the west?

The Dark Underbelly of Flood Management

Caijing (August 27, 2013)

Since China entered the main flood season this July, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenyang, Shantou and other cities have experienced serious flooding due to heavy rains, trapping residents, worsening urban traffic gridlock, and causing widespread building damage. Urban waterlogging in these cities can largely be attributed to drainage standards which have long been insufficient, poor management standards, and lack of consideration of flood disaster risks in engineering designs. According to a report released March 2013 by the Research Center on Flood Control and Drought Relief of the Ministry of Water Resources, 258 urban waterlogging incidents in 2010 caused 374.5 billion yuan in direct economic losses. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of the incidents can be attributed to flood-damaged infrastructure. Even when measured against the current dated low criteria, 340 or 53 percent of cities across the country do not meet urban flood control standards.

Why TCM Products Are Seen as Poison Pills Abroad

Caixin (August 27, 2013)

On August 20, Britain's Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency issued a press release warning that extreme caution should be used with a number of traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) because they could contain dangerously high levels of toxins, including lead, mercury and arsenic.The release said the drugs are not authorized for sale in Britain, but can be bought on the Internet. "People are warned to exercise extreme caution when buying unlicensed medicines as they have not been assessed for safety and quality, and standards can vary widely," it says. ...Since the beginning of this year, TCMs have repeatedly been questioned, mainly by foreign official and private drug testing organizations. Apart from being potentially toxic, another common concern is that the herbal remedies often contain pesticide residue.

(CENA prepared by Michelle Ker)

* The links and article summaries in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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