China Environmental News Alert
Posted February 21, 2014
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.
February 15- 21, 2014
Reuters (February 18, 2014)
China plans to spend 2 trillion yuan, or $330 billion, on an action plan to tackle pollution of its scarce water resources, state media said on Tuesday. China has a fifth of the world's population but just 7 percent of its water resources, and the situation is especially precarious in its parched north, where some regions have less water per capita than the Middle East. The plan is still being finalised but the budget has been set, exceeding the 1.7 trillion yuan ($277 billion) China plans to spend battling its more-publicised air pollution crisis, the China Securities Journal reported, citing the Ministry of Environmental Protection. It will aim to improve the quality of China's water by 30 to 50 percent, the paper said, through investments in technologies such as waste water treatment, recycling and membrane technology. The paper did not say how the funds would be raised, when the plan would take effect, or what timeframe was visualised, however.
China Dialogue (February 17, 2014)
Although China’s air pollution keeps making headlines, its water pollution is just as urgent a problem. One-fifth of the country’s rivers are toxic, while two-fifths are classified as seriously polluted. In 2012 more than half of China’s cities had water that was “poor” or “very poor”. Last week China’s ministry of environmental protection announced a trillion-yuan (US$320 billion) plan to start dealing with this urgent issue. The action plan, which is currently being drafted, will focus on curbing water pollution in the worst affected areas and preventing future pollution of the better conserved waters, deputy minister of environmental protection Zhai Qing said at a press conference. Proposed measures reportedly include cutting industrial waste water discharge, improving sewage management in cities and introducing better treatment for polluted water in rural areas.
Slate (February 19, 2014)
Solar power is an environmentalist’s dream, but for decades it was too expensive to be practical. In the past few years, that has finally been changing. Americans are signing up in droves to put panels on their roofs, not only for the good of the climate, but because—once you factor in government incentives—it’s often cheaper than conventional electricity, especially in sunny states. That was unimaginable only 10 years ago. The boom has been fueled by cheap solar panels from China, which has been heavily subsidizing solar manufacturing. The glut has been good not only for American customers, but for U.S. companies that install solar panels. …As a result, the solar industry has been a bright spot in the U.S. economy, with jobs growing by 20 percent a year. It now employs 140,000 Americans and counting, and is one of the few sectors in which President Obama’s promise of “green jobs” has actually materialized. But the good times could be coming to an end. It’s not that China is cutting off the supply of cheap panels. It’s that the United States is threatening to slap new tariffs on them that could sharply drive up the price. It would also likely prompt China to retaliate with more duties on U.S.-manufactured polysilicon, a key ingredient in those panels.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (February 18, 2014)
Global smart grid investment reached $14.9bn in 2013, up from the $14.2bn recorded in 2012, according to the latest authoritative figures from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China finished the year as the world’s largest smart grid market, exceeding the US in dollar investment for the first time as the North American market continued to slow. Smart metering accounted for just under half of the total smart grid spending worldwide, with distribution automation and other integrated demonstration projects rounding out the total. China spent $4.3bn on smart grid in 2013, with a large part of that going on the installation of 62m meters. China now has just under 250m smart meters installed but has indicated that it will push out the end-date for completing its metering programme from 2015 to 2017. China now has more than twice as many smart meters installed as the total number of households in the US.
Los Angeles Times (February 18, 2014)
For decades, China’s rulers deemed grain production a linchpin to its national security. The policy of self-sufficiency was a legacy of its planned economy from the days of Mao when China was increasingly isolated from the outside world. But China’s communist founders couldn’t have predicted the nation’s dizzying rise in meat consumption, which has grown nearly ten-fold to 71 million metric tons since 1975. That’s why China has been increasingly importing grains such as soybeans and corn from the U.S. and Brazil to boost its livestock population. Grain self-sufficiency was becoming like communist dogma in China: more a theory than a practice. Then last week, Beijing called it quits by announcing it was scaling back its annual grain production targets to put a greater emphasis on quality rather than quantity. The shift in grain policy was the clearest signal that policymakers had decided meat production was paramount, a pivot that will ripple across the globe and probably intensify China’s quest for foreign sources of meat, grain and dairy.
UPI (February 19, 2014)
China can still prosper economically while removing coal from its power mix, a report from the World Wildlife Fund said Wednesday. "By fully embracing energy conservation, efficiency and renewables, China has the potential to demonstrate to the world that economic growth is possible while sharply reducing the emissions that drive unhealthy air pollution and climate change," Lunyan Lu, WWF's China Climate and Energy Program director, said in a release. The report, prepared by the Energy Transition Research Institute in Annapolis, Md., used computer modeling to simulate four possible scenarios in China: a baseline, high efficiency, high renewables and low-carbon mix scenarios. ...The WWF report urges China to pursue aggressive energy efficiency initiatives to reduce electricity demand, in addition to increasing development of renewable power sources.
Reuters (February 17, 2014)
The Chinese government's failure to take emergency steps over the weekend to rein in pollution was "indefensible," state media said on Monday, in a rare show of defiance after several days of thick smog once again blanketed the capital, Beijing. "Their inaction in the face of the heaviest air pollution in a month flies in the face of their own promises and their own credibility," the official English-language China Daily said in an editorial. Similar comments posted by China's state broadcaster CCTV and official mouthpiece the People's Daily on their Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogs over the weekend were later deleted. The city's most recent round of pollution started on Friday, with the traditional lantern festival holiday when fireworks are set off, sending air quality indicators rocketing to 522, according to the city's official microblog account. Levels remained above 300, a degree considered hazardous, for most of the weekend, before dropping off on Monday.
Forbes (February 19, 2014)
China’s air quality crisis is now a topic of national and international concern. Commentators have pointed out that the rising levels of pollution, up to 24 times the WHO-recommended limits, creates long and short-term health risks including high infertility rates, and threatens both the global economy of Chinese cities and the political stability of the Communist Party. Rising fears over the effects of pollution raises another question: will China’s air crisis lead to more indoor cities? In cities around the world it is increasingly easy to live without ever having to go outside. …With the world’s largest and fastest growing cities, the trend toward interior cities is already pronounced in China.
Bloomberg (February 20, 2014)
China has revolution envy. The world’s largest energy consumer wants a natural gas boom to match the speedy transformation in the U.S., where shale gas production more than quadrupled between 2007 and 2012. President Barack Obama singled out the fuel in his State of the Union speech last month, saying, “Today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. One of the reasons why is natural gas.” It’s an enviable position to be in, and one potentially within China’s reach. The Middle Kingdom has all the essentials to replicate America’s coup: the world’s largest reserves -- twice the U.S.’s, little public backlash against drilling, support from the leadership and a ready market. Its major cities are choking on air pollution, and could benefit from a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. You’d think all it needs is to flip a switch.
NRDC Switchboard (February 20, 2014)
In his recent trip to China, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with government leaders in Beijing and came away with concrete steps that the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters can take together to address climate change. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to share information that would help with the UN climate change negotiations in Paris next year (when a post-2020 agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be reached) and to collaborate closely, under the auspices of the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) launched last year, on the five initiatives established by the CCWG: Emission Reductions from Heavy Duty and Other Vehicles; Smart Grids; Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage; Collecting and Managing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data; Energy Efficiency in Buildings and Industry. The two countries announced on February 15th that they have reached agreement on implementation plans for each of the five initiatives, and made commitments to devote significant effort and resources to achieve concrete results by the Sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue later this year.
(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.