China Environmental News Alert
Posted February 28, 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 22 - 28, 2014
Bloomberg (February 27, 2014)
Chinese President Xi Jinping said pollution was Beijing’s biggest challenge as thick smog blanketing northern China cleared after seven straight days at hazardous levels. Xi called preventing air pollution the “most prominent” problem Beijing faces, according to a report on China National Radio, as pollution dropped to “very unhealthy” levels from “hazardous,” according to a U.S. Embassy monitor. The lingering pollution in China’s capital renewed questions about the government’s determination to address environmental damage that’s accompanied three decades of double-digit economic growth. The issue will probably feature in discussions as Chinese leaders gather for an annual meeting of the national legislature next week.
China vows 'harsh punishment' for toxic smog culprits
Reuters (February 26, 2014)
China's environment ministry has vowed to 'harshly punish' factories and power plants that contributed to a hazardous smog which enveloped much of Northern China, official state media reported on Wednesday. Investigations had found that some thermal power plants, cement and steel makers in the northern province of Hebei had failed to halt or curtail production during severely smoggy days despite government orders, state news agency Xinhua quoted the Ministry of Environmental Protection as saying. Northern China had in recent days been suffering its worst air pollution crisis in months, leading to public displays of dissatisfaction, including people placing anti-pollution face masks on statues. In Beijing, which was shrouded in stinking smog for more than a week, authorities raised the pollution alert to the second-highest "orange" danger level for the first time on Friday after drawing public ire for its ineffective response. The noxious haze, which can cause lung cancer, abated Wednesday evening, just before China's leaders gather for next week's National People's Congress Meeting.
Chinese Man Sues His Polluted Hometown for Cost of Fighting Smog
Business Week (February 25, 2014)
A man in northern China filed a lawsuit against his smog-enshrouded city’s environmental protection bureau, saying it owed him for the money he spent on an air filter and a treadmill to exercise indoors. Li Guixin’s lawsuit, which seeks 10,000 yuan ($1,635) in economic damages from officials in Shijiazhuang, is the first of its kind in China, his lawyer Wu Yufen said in a phone interview today. A district court in the city will decide by Feb. 28 whether to accept the case, Wu said.The lawsuit reflects growing public concern over air pollution in China and smog’s effects on human health. Smog here has reached an “unbearable stage,” the government’s top climate-change adviser, Li Junfeng, said Feb. 23, and the topic is likely to be addressed when the country’s leaders gather March 5 for the annual two-week meeting of the National People’s Congress.
Agriculture feels the choke as China smog starts to foster disastrous conditions
South China Morning Post (February 25, 2014)
Worsening smog on the mainland is blocking natural light and could spell disaster for agriculture, scientists have warned. He Dongxian, an associate professor with China Agricultural University's College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering, said an experiment in Beijing over recent months showed a drastic slowdown in the photosynthesis process, which allows plants to thrive. Applied on a larger scale, such a slowdown could affect agriculture, which contributes 10 per cent to GDP. Farm output was likely to be affected by serious air pollution in winter and spring, with the prices of agricultural products expected to rise.
Costs of natural disasters in China surge to $69 billion
Reuters (February 24, 2014)
Natural disasters including droughts, floods and earthquakes cost China 421 billion yuan ($69 bln) in 2013, official data showed on Monday, nearly double the total in the previous year. China has always been prone to natural disasters but a changing climate is causing more extreme weather, which hits food production, threatens scarce water resources and damages energy security, according to the government. Data released by the National Statistics Bureau showed flooding and mudslides cost China 188 billion yuan in 2013, 20 billion more than in the previous year. Damage from droughts rose nearly fourfold to 90 billion yuan, while snowfall, freezes and ocean-related costs totalled more than 42 billion yuan. Earthquakes, primarily one in Sichuan province in April that killed 186 people, added nearly 100 billion yuan to the costs.
China to Compile List of Solar Projects Qualifying for Financing
Bloomberg (February 27, 2014)
China, the world’s biggest solar market, plans to compile a list of solar projects that will get financing from China Development Bank Corp. Recommendations from provincial authorities are due by April 2. Projects to be considered include research and development, technology upgrades, mergers and acquisitions, and overseas development, according to a statement posted on the website of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology yesterday. The move is the latest by the government to support the industry after record installations last year. China added 12 gigawatts of solar power in 2013, almost matching the equivalent amount in the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
New York Times (February 25, 2014)
Nearly a week into northern China’s latest airpocalypse, the skies over Beijing are murky and acrid with a heavy smog that shrouds the sun. On social media sites, the yellow, choking air has become something of a meme, as residents post depressing photos of their blackened air purifier filters and hazy urban vistas with comments like #nuclearwinter. Amid the latest round of smog, anger is rising over the Chinese government’s inability to protect the nation from a pollution crisis that has made places like Beijing “unsuitable for human habitation,” as a prominent state-backed think tank stated in a study released this month that was swiftly censored.
China Buys Control of Grain Trader
The Wall Street Journal (February 28, 2014)
China is making a big bet that it can gain greater sway over the world’s grain markets. State-owned Chinese food giant Cofco Corp. on Friday said it is buying a 51% stake in closely held grains trader Nidera NV. By investing in Nidera, Cofco—China’s largest stated-owned grain trader— would have greater control over pricing as well as better access to major grain-growing regions, such as Latin America and Russia. China is already a huge importer of soybeans from Argentina and Brazil, and has been investing more in agriculture in Eastern Europe. Nidera trades agricultural commodities, including grains and soybeans.
Reuters (February 27, 2014)
China's environment ministry has given the initial go-ahead for the construction of two new AP1000 nuclear reactors designed by U.S.-based Westinghouse in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, it said late on Thursday. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said the proposed new reactors at the Haiyang nuclear facility in the city of Yantai will cost a total of 31.4 billion yuan ($5.1 billion), invested by state-owned utility China Power Investment. The ministry published the project's 395-page environmental impact assessment in full on its website (www.mep.gov.cn) and said it is open to further suggestions and opinions from the public until March 5. China will be the first country to build Westinghouse's third-generation reactor model, with two units already in construction at Haiyang and another two being built at the Sanmen facility in Zhejiang province.
Will destroying ivory provoke more poaching?
China Dialogue (February 26, 2014)
In January China destroyed 6.1 tonnes of confiscated ivory. In early February France followed suit, destroying more than three tonnes of ivory at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The official view is that such public acts show poachers the authorities are determined to strike against the illegal ivory trade and protect the ever-dwindling population of elephants. But the opposite may be happening. Investigations have found that in China the destruction of ivory has sent prices higher – and that’s bad news for the elephants.
(CENA prepared by Kate Logan)
*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.