China Environmental News Alert
Posted May 15, 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.
May 12-16, 2014
New York Times (May 12, 2014)
Projected increases in China’s coal consumption may render it “almost impossible” for the world to limit global temperature increases from greenhouse gases to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) unless the country acts quickly to cap and then reduce its dependency on the fossil fuel, a new study has found. Burning coal in China contributes one-fifth of the world’s total emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, and if the country continues to increase its coal emissions through 2025 or beyond, it will make it “almost impossible for the world to move onto an emissions reduction pathway that gives even a 50-50 probability of staying below” 2 degrees Celsius, according to the study released on Monday by two British research centers.
South China Morning Post (May 14, 2014)
The year 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People's Republic, is a momentous date for China's leadership. When Xi Jinping outlined his vision for the Chinese dream, he picked it to be the year when China will reach the status of a "rich" and "strong" country. As it happens, current trends are that 2049 may also be the year when China runs out of its main energy source: coal. So far, the government has been too timid in its attempts to cut its dependence on coal in the energy sector and develop meaningful alternatives. Only a grand push for energy technology innovation can set the course for a secure and clean energy future. ...The fact is that the current rate of coal production growth is unsustainable. Data from the World Energy Council shows that China's proven coal reserves will last 34 years given its annual production rates, based on figures for 2011. That is down from about 100 years just a decade ago and means China will have exhausted its reserves by 2049, if it keeps going at the current rate.
The Guardian (May 14, 2014)
Environmental inspectors in Beijing are scrambling to keep pace with a rising number of cases as the city tries to impose tough new standards on thousands of polluting firms, highlighting the growing logistical problems facing China's war on smog. The Chinese capital has been at the frontline of a "war against pollution" declared by Premier Li Keqiang in March, and 652 industrial facilities were punished for breaching environmental regulations there in the first four months of 2014. Beijing's efforts are part of a promise made by the central government to reverse the damage done by decades of untrammeled growth and beef up powers to shut down and punish polluting firms. But the city's 500-strong squad of environmental enforcers have struggled to cope with the sheer volume of complaints.
China Daily (May 13, 2014)
The Chinese capital's environmental watchdog handed down a fine of 300,000 yuan ($48,000) to a utility boiler manufacturing company in the city on Monday, the highest penalty since the Beijing Air Pollution Prevention Regulation took effect on March 1. The company, Babcock & Wilcox Beijing Company, was fined for repeatedly painting utility boilers in the open air without any protective measures for reducing air pollution, said the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau. The bureau said the fines, together with the public disclosures, have raised companies' awareness of polluting and the importance of abiding by the rules. The Air Pollution Prevention Regulation mainly targets excessive emissions, encompassing construction sites, coal-fired boilers, chemical companies and vehicle owners, while increasing punishments. The new regulation set no ceiling for penalties, and some may face criminal liabilities.
Reuters (May 14, 2014)
Seven years ago, the Chinese city of Baoding launched an ambitious "low-carbon" plan using renewables like solar power to light its streets and heat residential buildings, putting it at the forefront of the country's battle to cut pollution. In 2013, Baoding was still the third most polluted city in the country, with levels of harmful particles in the air more than 40 percent above those in the nearby capital Beijing. Baoding's failure to clean up its act underlines the scale of the challenge facing China as it seeks to end an obsession with economic growth and make protecting the environment a priority nationwide. Named one of China's first official "low-carbon pilot zones" in 2010, the city of 11 million people remains beholden to "dirty" industries like steel and cement production, and is not expected to see noticeable improvement for at least five years.
Wall Street Journal (May 13, 2014)
China is shaking up its largest energy company by breaking apart its monopoly on natural-gas pipelines, which for years has discouraged the independent development of promising new supplies of the cleaner-burning fuel. State-controlled PetroChina Co. said late Monday that it will establish a new subsidiary containing some of its gas pipelines and that the business will eventually be sold. … China is thought to have rich shale-gas resources, but the high cost of development and the dominance of its state-owned energy companies are among the factors that have discouraged small-scale development, which was key to the U.S. shale boom. In the past, independent developers were typically required to sell their gas at wholesale prices to PetroChina before it entered the pipeline. …With the pipelines under new ownership, independent producers could theoretically bypass PetroChina and strike more lucrative deals directly with consumers, Mr. Wu said.
The Nature of Cities (May 11, 2014)
On 16 March 2014, China’s State Council released the “National New-type Urbanization Plan,” a long-awaited top-down effort to utilize urbanization as an engine for economic growth in the near future. The plan details an ambitious series of goals the government seeks to accomplish by 2020. However, speeding up the urbanization process will have far-reaching environmental and social effects for China. …Despite the Urbanization Plan’s ambitious targets, there is no clear mention of how local governments can raise the funds to accommodate the necessary upgrades to the provision of social benefits such as healthcare and education. In addition, a wave of migration to cities will put an immense strain on urban transportation and waste management infrastructure. In order to reach these goals and avoid a rehash of the wasteful government spending on prestige projects during the post-recession stimulus, China will need to rethink changes to taxation, land use, and urban planning policy that will be integral to achieving financially and environmentally sustainable urbanization.
Financial Times (March 11, 2014)
A demonstration against a planned waste incineration plant by thousands of residents near China’s scenic city of Hangzhou turned violent on Saturday, with police vehicles set on fire and injured protesters taken to hospital. Incineration plants have sparked protests in many of China’s wealthiest cities over the past decade, as the amount of waste generated rises. About three hundred incinerators are due to be built between 2010 and 2015. The national target is for 35 per cent of household waste to be incinerated by 2015, up from about 18 per cent in 2010. The district government appeared to back off with an announcement stating that the project would be suspended if it did not gain public “understanding and support” and asking people not to protest any more. Similar promises have defused public demonstrations against plants producing the petrochemical paraxylene, although in most cases work at such plants has continued.
Bloomberg View (May 14, 2014)
Over the weekend, protests over a garbage incinerator turned violent in Hangzhou, China, a wealthy and growing metropolis less than an hour’s train ride south of Shanghai. …This weekend’s protests -- which resulted in 53 arrests, according to state news media -- are merely the latest in a growing, citizen-driven movement against such burners. The cause is necessary, just and timely. According to a World Bank report, China has for a decade surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest generator of municipal solid waste -- the stuff that goes into landfills and incinerators -- and alone accounts for 70 percent of the solid waste generated in East Asia. By 2030, the same report suggests, China will probably generate twice as much solid waste as the U.S. Of course, on a per capita basis China and its relatively poor rural population still lag far behind Americans. But as China’s middle class expands, the per capita numbers will grow, too. This is what makes the issue of waste so different from China’s other pollution woes: Chinese consumers, as much if not more than industry or the government, are at the root of the problem. One only need visit a Chinese landfill (I’ve been to many) and see the large volume of rotting food within it, to understand how important a role individuals play in exacerbating this particular challenge.
The Guardian (May 15, 2014)
Hong Kong on Thursday began destroying nearly 30 tonnes of ivory seized from smugglers, in the world's largest such operation that marks a significant step in combating the illegal trade in elephant tusks. The operation, which involves incinerating a stockpile seized since 2003, comes after a government committee on endangered species agreed on the move following intense pressure from conservation groups. "Today's ceremony sends a loud and clear message to both the local and the international community that the Hong Kong government is determined to curb illegal trade in elephant ivory," the city's environment secretary Wong Kam-sing told reporters.
(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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