China Environmental News Alert
Posted December 25, 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.
December 23 - 26, 2013
New York Times (December 24, 2013)
Christmas Eve, marked by tens of millions of Christians in China and celebrated in a secular fashion by millions more, saw heavy pollution blanketing at least 78 cities with eight of them registering beyond 500, the upper limit to the government’s air quality index. And though for most Chinese Tuesday was an ordinary working day, there was plenty of irritation about the smog, which mostly affected the north of the country. Despite growing concern among the public over poor air quality, in Tianjin, a metropolis about an hour southeast of Beijing, an effort to control the pollution by limiting the number of cars on the road failed this week due to a public backlash, with people complaining of confusion and inconvenience.
Bloomberg News (December 24, 2013)
Heavy pollution enveloped northern and central China today, prompting warnings for people to stay indoors as smog levels in some areas exceeded World Health Organization-recommended levels by 30 times. The concentration of PM2.5, fine air particulates that pose the greatest health risk, was 421 micrograms per cubic meter at 2 p.m. near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, compared with an average of 228 over the past 24 hours, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website. Levels of PM2.5 hit 795 in Xi’an and 740 in Zhengzhou. The WHO recommends 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 concentrations no higher than 25 micrograms per cubic meter. With environmental concerns now a main cause of social unrest, China has pledged to cut coal consumption, shut steel plants and control the number of cars on the road to ease smog. The challenge will be targeting heavy-polluting industries that have created jobs and boosted economic growth.
Reuters (December 25, 2013)
China is struggling to meet its 2011-2015 targets to reduce pollution, cut greenhouse gas growth and introduce cleaner sources of energy, a report submitted to the country's parliament said on Wednesday. The report, which covers the 2011-2012 period, said faster-than-expected economic growth was to blame for China's failure to meet environmental targets ranging from energy use to nitrogen oxide emissions. The state of China's environment has come into particular focus in 2013, with most major cities engulfed by hazardous smog during the course of the year, including Beijing in January and Shanghai earlier this month. Desperate to head off growing public anger about the state of the country's air, water and soil, Beijing has promised to put an end to its "growth at all costs" economic model. It has already introduced new policies aimed at reining in polluting industries, cutting coal use and thinning traffic. But the government report said China was already playing catch-up, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
中国广播网 (December 23, 2013)
Los Angeles Times (December 24, 2013)
The youngest known lung cancer patient in eastern China is an 8-year-old girl whose home is next to a dust-choked road in heavily industrialized Jiangsu province. Another patient was a 14-year-old girl from Shanghai, the daughter of two nonsmokers with no family history of lung cancer. Back in the 1970s, when Bai Chunxue was in medical school, the textbook lung cancer patient was a chain-smoking male in his 60s. Nowadays, Bai, one of the physicians who treated the teen, sees so many who are still in their 20s that the cases blend together. "When I see patients who are not smokers with no other risk factors, we have to assume that the most probable cause is pollution," said Bai, who works at Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital and is chairman of the Shanghai Respiratory Research Institute. Increasingly, other Chinese physicians are reaching the same conclusion. At a time when cigarette smoking is on the decline in China, the nation is facing an explosion of lung cancer cases.
Wall Street Journal (December 23, 2013)
China's energy giants, which have long been the country's biggest foreign acquirers, are focusing on traditional oil and gas assets once again after favoring unconventional energy assets like shale gas and oil sands in recent years. The world's biggest firms, or majors, are putting plenty of oil assets on the sale block, and Chinese companies are snapping them up. So far this year, China's top three oil companies—China National Petroleum Corp., China Petrochemical Corp., or Sinpoec Group, and Cnooc Ltd. —have spent $32 billion on conventional oil and gas asset acquisitions overseas, according to data provider Dealogic. Once the darling of Chinese oil giants seeking overseas assets, shale gas and oil sands are losing their allure, because they hard to sell outside of North America.
South China Morning Post (December 22, 2013)
Another Chinese city has capped the total number of car licence plates it will issue annually, state media said Sunday, following moves by Beijing and other metropolises to curb pollution and congestion. …Tianjin, a coastal city near Beijing with 14 million people and 2.36 million registered motor vehicles last year, will cap new car plates to 100,000 a year, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The government will award 60,000 plates by lottery, reserving 10,000 of these for fuel-efficient cars, and auction the remaining 40,000. Of the total plates issued, 88 per cent will go to individuals and the rest to companies and other entities, while government bodies will be ineligible, Xinhua said.
New York Times (December 25, 2013)
When China’s skies darken with pollution, it is not the only nation to suffer. Soot, ozone-forming compounds and other pollutants from China can blow east to Korea and Japan. Ultimately, some even reach the west coast of the United States, scientists say. Other nations generate pollution too, of course, so the wafting of bad air from China adds to local problems. China’s emissions worry countries in the path of the plumes, but in a region where political tensions often run high, international solutions are largely elusive. “The countries most directly affected by air pollution from China are its nearest neighbors,” Paul Harris, the chair professor of global and environmental studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said in an email. “As with every other aspect of relations with China, there is a limit to what they can do about it.”
Caixin (December 24, 2013)
Whether we want them or not, genetically modified (GM) crops have already become a part of Chinese life. Already over 90 percent of China's cotton is genetically modified. Reliance on imported soybeans is over 80 percent and most of those imported beans are GM. GM crops are planted on about 170 million hectares worldwide, accounting for about 11 percent of the world's total 1.5 billion hectares of arable land. GM crops are being cultivated industrially in many parts of North and South America, and in Africa .Over the past five years, there have been several anti-GM movements in China, making the industrial cultivation of GM crops difficult. In some cases, public concern has killed GM projects before they can get off the ground. Despite this, over 20 years of wide-scale planting of GM crops around the world, there has not been a single safety-related incident regarding their consumption
Caixin (December 19, 2013)
In July, 61 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Chinese Academy of Engineering submitted a petition to the country's leaders asking that they begin promoting industrial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) rice as soon as possible. The experts did not seek support from the public, and their names remain a secret. Information about the petition was only released three months later by Zhang Qifa, of the CAS. Zhang, dean of Huazhong Agricultural University's College of Life Sciences and Technology, made the announcement at a conference in the capital. Zhang said that the petition stated that "the promotion of industrialized cultivation of GM rice can wait no longer, otherwise we will harm the national interest. The commercialization of GM food will be unable to develop, which will have an enormous impact on scientific research." Zhang's research team obtained safety certifications for GM rice four years ago, meaning that the approval procedures for industrial cultivation should have begun long ago, but policymakers have been dragging their feet and permission has not been handed out yet. In another year, the safety certifications will expire. This situation reflects the difficulty that the development of GM crops has faced in China.
(CENA prepared by Michelle Ker)
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