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Greenlaw from NRDC China’s Blog

China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China

Posted December 15, 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.

December 8 - 15, 2013

Local officials to obsess less over growth

Xinhua (December 10, 2013)

Chinese officials should downplay their obsession with economic growth and focus more on people's livelihoods and the environment, as the country moves toward a more balanced work evaluation system. A circular on improving the work evaluation of local Party, government leadership and officials stressed that “gross regional product (GRP) and its growth rates should not be the only main indicators of the evaluation of local officials' work achievements, and charts with this data must be banned.”The document was released Monday by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. China's central government traditionally assesses the performance of local authorities mainly through economic indices like GRP, which has resulted in some local governments sacrificing the environment and residents' well-being for better GRP figures.

China's Leaders Push Urbanization as Engine for Growth

Wall Street Journal (December 15, 2013)

China's leaders reaffirmed their intention to turn urbanization into a powerful engine to drive growth and remake the economy, saying they would encourage rural residents to move to smaller cities, rather than Beijing, Shanghai and other megacities. Over the past month, party leaders have rolled out their plans to revamp the Chinese economy and made few mentions of urbanization, though it had been seen as a priority of China's premier, Li Keqiang. During a two-day Communist Party session that ended Friday, party leaders made clear that urbanization still ranks high on China's economic agenda, experts said, while showing new determination to elevate environmental concerns and to figure out ways to help local governments pay for the cost of absorbing rural migrants. Government officials already are concerned that domestic debt is growing at a pace that has led to economic crashes in other nations.

China announces principles of urbanisation plans

Reuters (December 14, 2013)

China has added details to its plans to migrate millions of its citizens from the countryside into cities, state media reported Saturday, to help restructure the economy by boosting consumer demand. The government hopes 60 percent of China's population of almost 1.4 billion will be urban residents by 2020 as the country's new leaders seek to sustain growth that last year slowed to a 13-year low of 7.8 percent. However, the leadership is struggling to balance multiple, occasionally conflicting goals such as encouraging the migration of millions of former farmers into cities without creating the slums and unemployment problems that have occurred in other countries experiencing similar migration.

China’s Rust Belt Cities Hit With New Air Pollution Fines

Wall Street Journal (December 11, 2013)

A province in the heart of China’s rust belt has levied air pollution fines on city governments for the first time, in a sign that pressure to improve air quality in the world’s second-largest economy is trickling down to the local level. Liaoning, one of the nation’s largest industrial hubs, has so far collected a total of 54.2 million yuan ($8.9 million) from eight of its cities after it passed tougher air-pollution regulations last year, the official Xinhua news agency reported Monday. The fines are the first of their kind for the province and also come after China’s central government released a nationwide reform blueprint last month that vowed to impose more fees and taxes on polluters.

U.S. to China: Learn From Us on Environment

Wall Street Journal (December 13, 2013)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy had an overarching message during meetings with senior Chinese leaders in Beijing this week: Cleaning up the environment is vital to China’s economy. “Hopefully we can help them learn the lessons [the U.S.] did and make sure they consider the environment to be fundamental to their economic growth moving forward and not in conflict,” Ms. McCarthy said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday. “That’s the biggest message that we had.” ...How to better combat air pollution dominated Ms. McCarthy’s meeting with China’s Minister of Environmental Protection, Zhou Shengxian. She also met Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning body.

China's coal emissions responsible for 'quarter of a million premature deaths'

The Guardian (December 12, 2013)

Emissions from coal plants in China were responsible for a quarter of a million premature deaths in 2011 and are damaging the health of hundreds of thousands of Chinese children, according to a new study. The study by a US air pollution expert, commissioned by Greenpeace, comes as many areas in northern and eastern China have been experiencing hazardous levels of air pollution in recent weeks. ...The analysis traced the chemicals which are made airborne from burning coal and found a number of health damages were caused as a result. It estimates that coal burning in China was responsible for reducing the lives of 260,000 people in 2011.  

China's South-North Water Diversion Project Starts to Supply Water

Forbes (December 10, 2013)

China has made another step towards completing its South-North Water Diversion Project, which aims to pump almost 45 billion cubic meters of water every year from the Yangtze River basis to the country's parched north. The first-stage of the eastern route recently started to supply water to the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong after decades of planning and construction. About 34 million cubic meters of water, equivalent to the size of two West Lakes, is already diverted. China desperately needs more water. The dry north is the engine of the country's economic growth. The gigantic diversion project, at a cost of at least $62 billion, is the leadership's answer to the water-scarcity problem. The lush south, which holds about 80 percent of the country's water resources, first channeled water via the eastern route. Next year, water would flow via the middle route, which aims to bring the precious drops to Beijing. The controversial route diverts water from the fragile Himalayan plateau and that is still in the planning stage, thanks partly to the strong domestic objection and concern voiced by Southeast Asia countries.

China bans wild animals from official dinner tables

Xinhua (December 8, 2013)

China's central authorities on Sunday published a regulation that explicitly ruled out dishes containing shark fins, bird nests and wild animal products in official receptionc China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council, detailed regulations of the use of public funding on receptions by local authorities to receive visiting Party or governmental officials. Shark fins, bird nests and products of rare wild animals are popular materials in luxury dinners in China.

Three Ways U.S.-China Conflict is Helping on Climate Change

National Geographic (December 10, 2013)

Beijing's air quality monitoring station was the first stop Monday for Gina McCarthy, the top U.S. environmental official, in a weeklong trip to China for talks on how the world's top two greenhouse gas polluters can work together to tackle climate change. With no global treaty to reduce carbon emissions in sight, the trip is an effort by President Barack Obama's administration to demonstrate that efforts at bilateral cooperation hold promise. …Given the seriousness of China's pollution problems and its imperative to extend jobs and energy to its 1.4 billion people, what hope is there for progress on climate through collaboration with the United States, its top customer for its goods as well as one of its key economic rivals? …McCarthy and other U.S. officials see hope in three key areas.

China state media under fire for arguing benefits of smog

Reuters (December 10, 2013)

Commentaries by two of China's most influential news outlets suggesting that the country's air pollution crisis was not without a silver lining drew a withering reaction on Tuesday from internet users and other media. In online commentaries on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV and the widely read tabloid the Global Times, published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily, both tried to put a positive spin on China's smog problem. The Global Times said smog could be useful in military situations, as it could hinder the use of guided missiles, while CCTV listed five "unforeseen rewards" for smog, including helping Chinese people's sense of humor. While both pieces have since been deleted from their websites, Chinese newspapers lost little time in denouncing their point of view, in an unusual case of state media criticizing other state media, showing the scale of the anger.

(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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