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Greenlaw from NRDC China’s Blog

China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China

Posted January 30, 2014

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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.

January 26 - 31, 2014

China looks to halt New Year's fireworks to curb air pollution

Los Angeles Times (January 29, 2014)

Fireworks are as integral to Chinese New Year as pine trees are to Christmas. But with smog blanketing many Chinese cities these days, environmental activists, meteorologists and government officials are urging people to start the new year off without a bang. Tradition holds that noisy pops and colorful flares ward off evil spirits and bring good luck for the new year. But the pyrotechnics also release particulates including sulfur dioxide and other toxins. In Beijing two years ago on Chinese New Year’s Eve, levels of tiny particulates known as PM2.5 surged to 1,486 per cubic meter, state-run media reported -- more than 40 times the standard considered safe in the U.S. China’s official seven-day holiday, welcoming the Year of the Horse, begins Friday. Starting Thursday, the China Meteorological Assn. will issue a daily four-alert fireworks index tied to smog levels; when the index hits the highest, or red, level, the public will be advised not to light any fireworks, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

China to forecast air quality to reduce firework pollution

Xinhua (January 29, 2014)

China's meteorological authorities will forecast the nation's air quality from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 to help reduce air pollution caused by lunar new year fireworks, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said on Tuesday. Fireworks, a Chinese New Year tradition to ward off evil spirits, have been blamed for emissions of dust and sulfur dioxide and serious regional air pollution. According to air quality records of Beijing, Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province, local PM2.5 readings, which measure particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, rose sharply during past festive seasons, when people flocked outside to set off fireworks. …The authorities will release a four-grade meteorological index combining factors such as the diffusion of contaminants, wind, humidity and precipitation. The index will serve as a reference for air pollution risk assessment, according to Chen.

Less fireworks, less air pollution in Beijing on lunar New Year's Eve

Xinhua (January 31, 2014)

Beijing has seen less air pollution on the eve of China's lunar New Year with less fireworks set off, the municipal environment watchdog said on Friday. The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said that the air quality on the eve of the Spring Festival is "much better" than that of last year with the average PM 2.5 reading between 140-160 micrograms per cubic meter from 6 p.m. on Thursday to midnight. Last year, Beijing recorded its highest PM 2.5 reading of over 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter after a fireworks frenzy on the eve of the Spring Festival. On Friday, the Beijing municipal government expressed gratitude in a public letter to local citizens who answered its call of replacing fireworks with flowers and electronic substitutes for celebrations. The letter also calls for continuing such "environment-friendly" practices in the coming days.

China's sets new world record for solar installations

The Guardian (January 30, 2014)

China installed a record 12GW of solar power in 2013, doubling its rate of solar installations, according to preliminary figures. This is more than has ever been installed by any country in a single year and means that China installed three times more solar energy in 2013 than the total UK solar capacity. No country has ever added more than 8GW of solar power in one year before, according to an analysis by Li Shuo, a policy and energy analyst at Greenpeace East Asia. It is also more solar than China had installed in all the years prior to 2013 put together, according to Li. The preliminary solar figures are estimated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) which tracks energy figures globally. According to BNEF, this figure may even rise to 14GW due to a rush to install solar energy towards the end of 2013 due to a feed-in tariff for large photovoltaic projects coming to an end by January 1.

US solar power trade war with China heats up

Financial Times (January 26, 2014)

The escalation of a trade war between the US and China over solar power components threatens to do serious damage to the American industry, its leading association has warned. Hostilities rose with a missive issued by the China’s Ministry of Commerce to the United States on Sunday over its anti-dumping measures and counter investigations on Chinese solar products. “China will closely follow the case, assess the impact on the Chinese solar sector and resolutely safeguard our interests through various mechanism,” the ministry said in a statement reported by its state media. The ministry added that a probe into Chinese solar cells that opened in November 2011 did little to help improve the performance of the US solar industry. The US commerce department said last week that it would investigate a complaint that Chinese manufacturers were using loopholes in import duties imposed in 2012 to continue selling at illegally low prices in the American market.

China's ivory dilemma

Global Times (January 26, 2014)

 When 6.1 tons of confiscated ivory was publicly destroyed in South China's Guangdong Province on January 6, the international community applauded China's effort to crack down on the illegal ivory trade, which directly or indirectly kills thousands of endangered animals every year. However, ivory traders in China were not thinking about conservation. Instead they anticipated a rise in the price of ivory, and considered whether it would be the right time to sell. The result, however, was a disappointment to both sellers and conservationists. The price of ivory didn't budge, which was an ominous sign. "It proves that the market did not lack inventory, so the price has only fluctuated slightly," said Zhang Di, a senior financial planner based in Shenyang, Liaoning Province. The situation is further complicated by the fact that China sells legal ivory, which provides cover for illegal sales.

Building Codes in China Tested for Energy Savings

Produce Design & Development (January 29, 2014)

China can build its way to a more energy efficient future — one house, apartment and retail store at a time — by improving the rules regulating these structures, according to a study by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. PNNL scientists at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership with the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., have created a unique model that projects how much energy can be saved with changes to China's building energy codes. ...The study focused on realistic improvements to codes that regulate building aspects like insulation and lighting. Improvements to these codes could reduce building energy consumption by up to 22 percent by the end of this century, compared to a no-change scenario, the researchers found.

Who Has Dirtier Air: China or India?

Bloomberg Businessweek (January 28, 2014)

On an average day, the view from the window of a New Delhi apartment is even smoggier than that from the window of a Beijing high-rise, as the New York Times recently reported. (The 7.5 million cars on New Delhi’s roads, up from 800,000 in the early 1970s, certainly hasn’t helped air quality.) But on a country-to-country basis, China still ranks dead last globally in terms of average exposure to PM 2.5—fine particulate air pollution that poses a severe threat to human health—according to data compiled for the 2014 Environmental Performance Index by scientists at Yale and Columbia universities. …Bad air in China reaches far beyond Beijing, which has received the greatest international media attention for its gray skies—partly because it is home to the highest concentration of foreign journalists in China. Alas, Chinese cities aren’t Asia’s only smog-shrouded metropolises. As Angel Hsu, lead author of the Environmental Performance Index, points out, “South Asia has the world’s worst air pollution as a region. It’s worth noting that it’s not just China, or India even, that suffers from poor air quality. Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal all suffer from both poor household air quality”—exacerbated by indoor coal-burning stoves—“and outdoor air pollution,” as measured by PM 2.5 levels.

China’s air pollution prompts creative, sometimes wacky, solutions

Washington Post (January 25, 2014)

This is how bad the smog has gotten in China. Officials are looking at washing away air pollution with artificial rain or sucking it up with giant vacuum cleaners. Shanghai has given its cops mini-filters to put in their noses. Beyond the government, a cottage industry has popped up, tinkerers who are producing anti-pollution devices — some practical, others wacky artistic statements. There is a bicycle that purifies air as you pedal. And a growing spectrum of do-it-yourself air-filtering machines, from simple duct-tape concoctions to elaborately engineered models. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Capital's Expensive Plan to Fight Air Pollution Misguided, Expert Says

Caixin (January 27, 2014) 

An expert has cast doubt on a large spending plan the Beijing city government has announced to fight air pollution, saying it takes aim at the wrong problem. ...The capital unveiled plans in September to slash coal use by 2017. Natural gas will instead meet much of the city's energy demands. Much of the 760 billion yuan will go toward converting coal-burning power plants into ones that burn natural gas. Tao says the government will need to invest heavily in equipment and production facilities, but doing this will also create a long-term financial burden because gas is more expensive than coal. A more effective solution, Tao said, is to stick with coal but to make it cleaner. "Technologies that can make coal cleaner are getting more and more advanced," he said. "It is not difficult to reduce particulate matter by 70 percent in coal-burning power plants."

(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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