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Greenlaw from NRDC China’s Blog

China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China

Posted May 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.

May 26 - 30, 2014

China’s fight against pollution is good for the air but bad for the economy (for now)
Quartz (May 27, 2014)
The Chinese government has loudly vowed many times in the last year to improve air quality, going to far as to declare a “war on pollution.” It’s hard to tell if this is just lip service, though—especially when China’s skies still show extreme pollution, several months after coal-burning season ended. However, recent analysis of economic data by Claire Huang, an economist at Société Générale, found that “Chinese policymakers are getting serious about air pollution.” So serious, in fact, that those efforts are already hurting GDP performance—something the government has so far shown to be its biggest priority. Huang says GDP will slow 0.35 percentage points cumulatively from 2014 to 2017 because of air pollution mitigation efforts, and she expects the economy to take the biggest blow this year.

China to boost funding for local governments that cut emissions
Reuters (May 28, 2014)
China will boost funding to regions that do well in reining in air pollution and punish laggards, the cabinet has decided, as Beijing pushes local governments to step up the war on smog. The fight on crippling pollution that prematurely ends hundreds of thousands of lives annually has risen to near the top of the national agenda, but is still ignored by some local governments that remain focused only on growing their economies.Beijing now promises more money to regions that do well on cutting emissions of pollutants such as sulphuric dioxide and nitrous oxide. Regulations released on Tuesday by China's State Council, or cabinet, said from now on it would rate provincial governments in one of four categories ranging from "excellent" to "substandard", based on whether they meet air pollution targets.

China to scrap millions of cars to ease pollution
The Guardian (May 27, 2014)
The Chinese government has announced plans to take up to 6 million vehicles that don’t meet emission standards off the roads by the end of the year, in a bid to reduce the country’s air pollution problems. The move is part of a plan published by China’s cabinet, the State Council, which outlined emission targets for a number of industries over the next two years. The State Council said that some pollution targets are not being met for the 2011-2013 period and that action needs to be stepped up.  China is facing a “tough situation” in hitting its targets for energy and emissions for 2015, Xu Shaoshi, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission was quoted by state media.

Waste, Poor Planning Blunt China’s Wind Energy Ambitions
Wilson Center (May 27, 2014)
China leads the world in installed wind power by a wide margin, but last year, when it came to actual generation, China produced 20 percent less electricity from wind than the United States. China is a country of superlatives and contradictions, especially when it comes to energy – it is not only the largest producer and consumer of coal, but also the largest investor in renewable energy. Since 2010, China has been the world’s biggest and fastest growing market for wind power, which the government has prioritized for its cleaner energy and job creation potential. But waste and poor planning have left many new wind farms idle or disconnected from power grids.

China Seen Outspending U.S. Drillers to Chase Shale-Gas Boom
Bloomberg (May 29, 2014)
China’s effort to catch up with the U.S. in developing shale gas and become more energy independent is coming at a big cost: It’s spending four times as much developing some fields, according to a new report. Holding the world’s biggest potential reserves of natural gas in shale rock, China will spend billions of dollars in trying to close a gap with the shale leader, which is about a decade ahead in developing the energy resource, according to a study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance released yesterday. The emergence of shale projects in Asia and Europe affects global gas and oil prices and is changing the energy agendas of governments from London to Beijing. In China, leaders mandated national targets for their producers such as state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (386), known as Sinopec.

Suntech says solar PV costs to match coal in China by 2016
Renew Energy (May 27, 2014)
Suntech Power predicts that the cost of building large scale solar PV plants could match the cost of coal-fired generation in China by 2016, a development that will “completely transform” the energy market in the world’s second biggest economy.Eric Luo, the CEO of Suntech Power, which last month completed a buyout by Shunfeng Photovoltaic International, says that solar PV is rapidly catching up to the cost of coal-fired generation. (China is the world’s largest consumer of coal). “The levellised cost of generation is still coming down,” Luo told RenewEconomy in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Wuxi in China this week.

China’s Water Pollution Mire
The Diplomat (May 28, 2014)
Much has been said about China’s air pollution dilemma, with smog so thick in many urban areas that simply getting to and from work can pose a health hazard. Less has been written about the pollution of China’s water. In fact, water pollution in China is at least as bad – so severe that it has been proven to cause gastrointestinal and other types of cancer in some villages. Although these “cancer villages” have been around since the nineties, the government only recently recognized their presence. Many times in these cases, the pollution is caused by chemical dumping from nearby factories.

China Middle-Class Protests Turn Violent After Petitions Ignored
Bloomberg (May 27, 2014)
The first time Yan heard authorities planned a waste incinerator near her home in eastern China was when a petitioner gave her a leaflet warning of the pollutants it might spew into the environment. Fearing that the burner might hurt her toddler’s health, the technology worker in Hangzhou petitioned the government to halt the project before joining hundreds of protesters near the proposed site on May 10. Violent clashes erupted as cars were overturned and police vehicles set on fire. “At the start, all people wanted was a way to reflect our concerns and grievances to the government,” said Yan, who is in her 30’s and asked not to be fully identified amid a government investigation.

The polluted legacy of China's largest rice-growing province
Chinadialogue (May 30, 2014)
In February 2012, researchers carried out autopsies on two farmers who had died in summer 2009 in Liuyang in the southern province of Hunan. Pollution from a chemical factory had contaminated crops with cadmium, resulting in vegetables that were ‘grotesque and disfigured beyond recognition’. The two farmers, Luo Lin and Ouyang Shuzhi, had extremely high urinary cadmium levels in their bodies. A total of 571 people from the same village showed elevated levels of the heavy metal, 208 of whom had already been diagnosed with cadmium poisoning. Around 260 hectares of village farmland were too polluted for crops. Cadmium is one of the 10 most dangerous chemicals for public health, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Excessive intake damages kidney tubules and obstructs bone metabolism - causing kidney failure and bone lesions. Cadmium's carcinogenicity has been widely confirmed.

(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.

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