China Environmental News Alert
Posted June 13, 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.
June 9 - 13, 2014
Bloomberg Businessweek (June 10, 2014)
Each year, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) releases a “state of the environment” report (PDF); it’s a rather grim annual ritual. For all the talk about China’s new “war on pollution” and money pouring into wind farms and river cleanup campaigns, the reality is that, according to most metrics, China’s environmental situation is getting worse, not better. Air pollution in China receives the most attention globally. Despite a recent stretch of fairly nice days in Beijing, according to the MEP’s report, in 2013 only three major Chinese cities met the government’s own standards for urban air quality. Water pollution—and water shortages—may be an even graver problem. The pollution level in several major rivers, including the Yangtze and its tributaries, has grown more severe since 2010. Meanwhile 11 percent of the land in the Yangtze’s watershed and adjacent areas was watered by acid rain. Sixty percent of groundwater-testing sites nations wide ranked as “poor” or “very poor” in water quality.
Bloomberg (June 11, 2014)
China is reviewing a plan to invest more than 2 trillion yuan ($321 billion) to curb water pollution, China Business News reported. The plan, which has been submitted to the State Council, will speed up improving water-environment quality and protect its safety, the report said, citing an unidentified official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Two calls to the ministry’s news department went unanswered. About 10 percent of the nation’s surface water was heavily polluted and worse than the level set for agriculture use, the ministry’s vice minister Li Ganjie was cited as saying.
Reuters (June 12, 2014)
Chinese state prosecutors charged more than 20,000 people with environmental crimes last year and made more than 7,000 arrests, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. With Beijing hoping to fight its "war against pollution" in the courts, officials from the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) said they would strike even harder this year against polluting firms and the local officials who protect them, Xinhua reported. Long accused of turning a blind eye to environmental violations, China has promised to improve the way it enforces laws, and has also vowed to mete out tougher financial and criminal punishments for enterprises found guilty of violating state pollution rules. Xinhua said Chinese state prosecutors had already set up a "rapid response mechanism" to deal with environmental crimes. In March and April alone, they investigated 228 cases and approved the arrest of 1,375 people.
International Business Times (June 13, 2014)
China is leveling hundreds of mountain peaks to make way for new cities at a great cost to the environment, researchers say. Developers use the soil and rock they get from shaving down mountaintops to fill in valleys to create flat terrain. But the massive effort has been linked to air and water pollution, severe erosion, landslides and dust storms, according to a paper released last week. Researchers compared the effects of leveling mountains in China to those of the mining industry in parts of the U.S., but said China’s effort is on a much larger scale. "In the U.S. and China, we're moving ahead without much insight into what the result will be, especially when it comes to the water, the hydrology, the water quality implications,” Brian McGlynn, a professor from Duke University in the US, told BBC Radio. "We don't have any experience with manipulations on this scale: It's a large experiment."
China Dialogue (June 11, 2014)
A lack of public transparency around major projects has caused mistrust, suspicion and public opposition, a senior official from China's environment ministry has admitted. Speaking at the launch of the 2013 Report on the State of the Environment in China last Wednesday, vice environment minister Li Ganjie said environmental concerns had fuelled an increasing number of "mass incidents" – the official term for protests – partly because “the planning process in some areas and some departments may not be as scientific and rational as it should be”. He added that some projects “don’t share enough information with the public”. “If the public doesn't participate in the process, and is unable to get explanations and timely answers to their questions, this generates mistrust and suspicion,” Li said. …According to the annual State of the Environment report, China has recorded 712 cases of "abrupt environmental incidents" (including protests triggered by environmental concerns) in 2013, a 31% surge from the previous year’s figure.
Washington Post (June 9, 2014)
A Chinese environmental group launched a smartphone app on Monday that tracks and shames polluting factories, highlighting how the country is making environmental data more available and enabling public monitoring of companies that pollute. The app gives, where available, hourly updates on emissions reported by factories to local authorities and shows the plants as color-coded points on a map, with violators of emissions limits in red. It also gives government air pollution data for areas throughout the country. The Environment Ministry requires about 15,000 factories nationwide to report their air emissions in real time to local environmental officials. Since the beginning of this year, the government has required that the data be made public and some provincial governments have started posting it on websites, though it has not been collected in one place until now. The availability of such data is a far cry from three years ago, when Chinese authorities kept secret their data on PM2.5 — tiny particles in the air that are considered a good gauge of air quality. Now, PM2.5 data is a key part of published air quality indexes.
Bloomberg (June 10, 2014)
The mud-colored air that blankets Chinese cities these days is bad for the people who live there. It may prove unhealthy for U.S. coal producers, too. Intense opposition on the U.S. West Coast, over climate change, rail congestion and damage to Native American fisheries, already is blocking new export terminals designed to ship coal across the Pacific Ocean. Now, China -- which consumes almost as much coal as the rest of the world combined -- is accelerating a planned switch to cleaner fuels, including a possible cap on carbon emissions and limits on new coal-fired plants. Even if such changes don’t occur as fast as environmentalists might hope, Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to scrap the economic strategy that spawned coal-eating steel plants in every province.
China Dialogue (June 10, 2014)
China has been urged to ditch some of its long-standing food self-sufficiency objectives in an effort to preserve its food security and resources. Rapid changes in diet in the country – particularly the shift to eating more animal products – has seen a rise in imports of feed crops, including soy and maize. Controversially, a new report from the World Bank now suggests China should allow these imports to continue to rise. “Such realignment would help China preserve land and save water,” says the report. The World Bank has predicted China’s self-sufficiency rate in soy will drop to 14% by 2030, while its imports of maize will rise from 2% in 2012 to 15% by 2030. The organisation goes on to say China should also put a greater emphasis on “improving the environmental sustainability” of its livestock sector, which has been criticised for its contribution to pollution.
China Daily (June 12, 2014)
China and the United States signed a package of agreements on energy efficiency projects on Wednesday, a move expected to deepen energy cooperation between the world's two largest economies.The deals include a program of distributed energy to be piloted in a 20-square-km international tourism resort zone in Shanghai, signed between General Electric (China) Co Ltd and a Shanghai-based new energy company. Other deals include a program to jointly train personnel specializing in energy efficiency management, one on a low-carbon eco-city in China, and another project featuring consulting services for improving corporate energy efficiency. The deals were signed during the fifth China-US Energy Efficiency Forum, which opened in Beijing on Wednesday.
人民网 (June 10, 2014)
(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.