China Environmental News Alert
Posted October 17, 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.
October 12-18, 2013
Xinhua (October 17, 2013)
The Beijing Municipal Government will soon issue an emergency response program requiring alternate driving days for cars with even- and odd-numbered license plates in case of lingering smog, Xinhua has learned. When the city issues a red alert for air pollution, the system will be initiated to reduce pollution, according to the Beijing Municipal Heavy Air Pollution Emergency Response Program. Moreover, 30 percent of government cars of various levels will be halted, and schools in kindergartens, primary and high schools will be suspended during such polluted days, under the program.
Associated Press (October 17, 2013)
What many commuters choking on smog have long suspected has finally been scientifically validated: air pollution causes lung cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared on Thursday that air pollution is a carcinogen, alongside known dangers such as asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation. The decision came after a consultation by an expert panel organized by IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization. "The air most people breathe has become polluted with a complicated mixture of cancer-causing substances," said Kurt Straif, head of the IARC department that evaluates carcinogens. He said the agency now considers pollution to be "the most important environmental carcinogen," ahead of second-hand cigarette and cigar smoke. IARC had previously deemed some of the components in air pollution such as diesel fumes to be carcinogens, but this is the first time it has classified air pollution in its entirety as cancer causing.
China Daily (October 16, 2013)
Government departments should strive to improve information transparency so as to better respond to people's concerns, the State Council said on Tuesday. It asked government officials to release information actively, timely, comprehensively and accurately in the era of the Internet, according to a statement on the central government's website. Many departments have taken measures such as appointing a spokesperson or opening a website to release information in light of a State Council regulation issued in 2008. However, some local governments have not publicized information in a timely manner, or have even kept silent on issues of public concern, and this has tarnished the government's image, the statement said.
China Daily (October 14, 2014)
The central government said on Monday it is offering a total of 5 billion yuan ($818 million) in financial rewards to Beijing and its neighboring provinces to fuel their fight against air pollution. The Ministry of Finance announced that the special budget is up for grabs among Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding areas of Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, where the air quality did not meet national standards for nearly two-thirds of August. The cities with the worst air quality and those located in the surrounding areas of Beijing are higher on the priority list for receiving the special central government funding. …Most of the central government's funds will likely be funneled to the heavily polluted province of Hebei, which is currently taking considerable steps to reduce its air pollution.
China Daily (October 13, 2013)
Beijing is weighing whether to remove its upper limit on fines for violating air pollution regulations next year. The Beijing government released its second draft of the regulation on Sept 25, scrapping the 1-million-yuan ($163,396) limit and adding five categories of illegal behavior to a list of those for which fines will be doubled. If the draft is approved, it means that certain actions, such as barbecuing food out in the open and discharging more vehicle exhaust than allowed, may result in heavier fines than currently applied, while serious breaches of regulations may exceed the current 1-million-yuan upper limit.
Caijing (October 11, 2013)
China is likely to lift a 10 percent tax on export of coal products next year, nearly a decade after it imposed strict controls to ease supply tensions domestically, local media said. Relevant authorities are considering removing the tax from January 1, reports by the 21st Century Economic Journal, citing a source familiar with the mater. The tax was introduced to reduce coal exports at a time when demand surged to adapt to a fast growing economy, a necessity that is no longer as strong as it was before due to falling coal prices, according to the report. But impacts from the policy change could be limited, according to the source, as companies are still subject to a quota system in exports.
The Economist (October 12, 2013)
Ask an environmentalist what is the country’s biggest problem, and the answer is always the same. “Water is the worst,” says Wang Tao, of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, “because of its scarcity, and because of its pollution.” “Water,” agrees Pan Jiahua, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “People can’t survive in a desert.” Wang Shucheng, a former water minister, once said: “To fight for every drop of water or die: that is the challenge facing China.”
Washington Post (October 14, 2013)
As investment in alternative energy rebounded in 2011, U.S. wind and solar companies found stiff new competition — Chinese firms dominating the green industries that American officials looked to for growth. Supporting those Chinese companies was a surprising patron: the World Bank, a Washington-based development agency whose steady counsel and financing have helped China challenge U.S. economic dominance, and in this case may have cost the United States jobs. Sometimes criticized as a tool of U.S. foreign influence, the bank’s 30-year engagement in China may actually tell an opposite tale — of an institution that helped lay the foundation for some of the policies and industries cited by the United States as unfair to its firms and workers, and corrosive to the global economic system. Bank programs have provided Chinese companies with direct loans to build their expertise and become more competitive; separately, World Bank contracts have provided tens of billions of dollars in business for Chinese firms that have won work from the bank at a pace unmatched by other countries.
Xinhua (October 16, 2013)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has signed a decree on urban drainage and sewage treatment, as flooding and water pollution is becoming a bigger problem at a time of rapid urbanization. The decree, which will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, stipulates that all governments above the county level must include the building and management of urban drainage and sewage treatment facilities into their economic and social development plan. …The decree says governments must encourage private investment in the building and operation of drainage and sewage treatment facilities such as in the form of franchise or government procurement of private services. As a crucial but "invisible" infrastructure, drainage system is often ignored by China's urban governments in their pursuit of economic growth, resulting in frequent reports of flooding even in the case of moderate rains.
China Dialogue (October 14, 2013)
Though still shrouded in scaffolding, the world’s second tallest building already overshadows its companions in the crowded Shanghai skyline. Located in the Pudong financial district, the Shanghai Tower’s spiraling trunk represents China’s emergence as an economic superpower. But the elegant shape has a more practical application: it works with the wind. Designers refined the twisting, tapering form so that loads would be reduced by 24%. This allows the building to be unusually light, saving developers some £36 million. When completed next year the 632-metre tower, which cost an estimated £1.6 bn, will be an architectural showstopper.
(CENA prepared by Michelle Ker)
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