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Greenlaw from NRDC China’s Blog

China Environmental News Alert

Greenlaw from NRDC China

Posted August 14, 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.

August 9 - 15, 2014

China tells citizens to bike, walk, and snitch in the “united struggle” to breathe easier
Quartz (August 13, 2014)
To fight its stubborn pollution problem, China is asking its citizens to walk or bike instead of driving, and to use less air conditioning and limit the use of outdoor barbecues—and to turn in neighbors who waste electricity or pollute the environment. According to China’s environmental protection law, amended in April, clearing up the country’s smoggy skies is now the obligation of all Chinese citizens. To help, the environmental ministry released a set of guidelines (pdf) yesterday, titled the “United Breath Struggle Citizen Code of Conduct.” Officials are also instructing residents not to use coal, which is common in rural households for cooking and heating, or to burn garbage, buy products with excessive packaging, or run the air conditioning so much that the temperature inside falls below 26 degrees celsius (78 degrees fahrenheit.) Whenever possible, residents are also instructed to use public transport, walk, or bike.

Beijing cuts coal use by 7 pct in H1 in anti-smog push
Reuters (August 12, 2014)
China's capital Beijing cut total coal consumption by 7 percent in the first half of 2014 as part of its efforts to tackle smog, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing data from its environmental protection bureau. Beijing is at the front line of a "war on pollution" declared by the central government earlier this year in a bid to head off public unrest about the growing environmental costs of economic development. The city has already started to close or relocate hundreds of factories and industrial plants. It will also raise vehicle fuel standards and is mulling the introduction of a London-style congestion charge. To reduce coal consumption, it is in the process of shutting down all of its ageing coal-fired power plants and replacing them with cleaner natural gas-fired capacity or with power delivered via the grid.

Tibet's glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years, report says
The Guardian (August 14, 2014)
The Tibetan plateau, whose glaciers supply water to hundreds of millions of people in Asia, were warmer over the past 50 years than at any stage in the past two millennia, a Chinese newspaper said, citing an academic report. Temperatures and humidity are likely to continue to rise throughout this century, causing glaciers to retreat and desertification to spread, according to the report published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.  “Over the past 50 years, the rate of temperature rise has been double the average global level,” it said, according to the report on the website of Science and Technology Daily, a state-run newspaper.  Glacier retreat could disrupt water supply to several of Asia’s main rivers that originate from the plateau, including China’s Yellow and Yangtze, India’s Brahmaputra, and the Mekong and Salween in southeast Asia.  In May, Chinese scientists said Tibetan glaciers had shrunk 15% – around 3,100 sq miles (8,000 sq km) – over the past 30 years. 

Cloud-seeding can’t save China’s farmers from serious drought
Wall Street Journal (August 14, 2014)
Nearly every year, drought conditions pop up somewhere in China, often accompanied by an official warning that it’s the worst in 50 years or even a century. This year is no different: Officials say parts of China’s agricultural heartlands are experiencing their worst drought in 63 years, weighing on the country’s crop outlook and potentially threatening the country’s goal of having another record harvest this year. Hardest hit are China’s central Henan and the northeastern province of Liaoning, where the corn crop is just entering a key growing phase, provincial government officials say. The dry spell has led local authorities to activate cloud seeding plans and mobilize military personnel to stand by for emergency assistance.

China overtakes Germany as world's biggest solar market
Eco-Business (August 14, 2014)
China has overtaken Germany to become the world’s biggest market for solar power in 2013, with newly-installed solar capacity in the country jumping 232 per cent to 12 gigawatts (GW) from a year ago, a new study has found. This achievement is backed by US$23.56 billion of industry financing, almost equivalent to the entire amount raised in Europe, said the Global Renewable Energy Report 2014, published on Monday by Hanergy Holding Group (Hanergy) and China New Energy Chamber of Commerce (CNECC). Germany’s newly installed capacity in 2013 dropped by 56.5 per cent to 3.3GW, while in Italy, it sank by 55 per cent year-on-year to 1.6GW, said the report, which drew on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, GlobalData and Hanergy and CNECC’s own research teams. 

Shrinking wetlands highlight need for legal protection
Xinhua (August 14, 2014)
The battle for the country's wetlands rages in China as farmers eager to boost meager incomes butt heads with government initiatives to preserve biodiversity. China's vast area of wetlands remain under constant threat from human activities. Despite their crucial role preserving water resources and biodiversity, they are often the first casualties of rapidly expanding cities and growing demands for agriculture. In a tour to several wetlands in northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Xinhua reporters found that although the government is increasing efforts to curb the degradation of wetlands, local residents are still attempting to convert them to agricultural lands as incomes remain low in the undeveloped region.

In China, climate change is already here
The Diplomat (August 14, 2014)
Northern China is currently experiencing a severe drought. Xinhua reports that Henan Province, one of China’s top grain producers, has suffered economic losses of 7.3 billion renminbi ($1.2 billion) due to the drought, with agriculture representing 97 percent of those losses. Neighboring Hebei Province is also suffering, with rainfall levels in some areas at less than 50 percent of yearly averages. Liaoning Province, meanwhile, is in the midst of its worst drought since the province began keeping meteorological records in 1951. Even as northern Chinese provinces dry up, southern China is experiencing devastating floods. In southwestern China, July flooding due to extreme rainfall killed at least 34 and caused 5.21 billion RMB ($839.8 million) in damages. In mid-July, Typhoon Rammasun, the largest to make landfall on China in 40 years, brought more rains and flooding. More recently, heavy rains have complicated efforts to rebuild after the August 3 Yunnan earthquake, and just this week more flooding in Guizhou province killed at least 12 people.

China dam project slated for Tibet quietly passes key hurdle
Wall Street Journal (August 14, 2014)
Controversial efforts in China to construct a dam on the free-flowing Nu River recently got a quiet boost. In a little-noticed July decision made public last week, a corporate statement quoted an expert panel in approving a pre-feasibility study for a dam on the river in Tibet. According to the statement, also published on official news portal China Energy News , the panel formed by China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute, Tibet’s economic planning department and associated organizations concluded the feasibility study “basically meets the survey and design requirements at this stage.” Environmentalists hail the Nu, a waterway that cascades off the Tibetan Plateau through Yunnan Province and into Myanmar, as China’s largest river without a dam.

NW China city's air pollution transformation
Xinhua (August 14, 2014)
Once one of China's most polluted cities, the northwest city of Lanzhou has rid itself of heavy air pollution and become a model for pollution control over the past two years. The Ministry of Environmental Protection organized a group of environmental officials from other heavily polluted areas to visit and learn from Lanzhou City, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, last Thursday. Lanzhou was once one of the top 10 most polluted cities in China. In 2009, it ranked as the most polluted among the country's provincial capital cities. As a heavy chemical industry base, Lanzhou has suffered from serious air pollution over the past decade. The city is situated in the Yellow River valley and is surrounded by mountains, which hinders the dispersal of pollutants.

(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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