Archive for ‘Ecology’


China Says Pilot Should Be Able to Land in Low Visibility, Battling High Traffic and Pollution – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you want to fly in China, you need to be able to land in the smog.

China’s civil aviation regulator has set new rules mandating senior airline pilots operating on major routes into Beijing’s airport be certified to land aircraft under very low visibility, a move to help ease the nation’s worsening air traffic bottlenecks amid often heavy pollution.

China’s major airlines say they have been giving pilots additional training to comply with the new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, according to the carriers and state media.

The decision comes amid worsening pollution across China cities that at times is affecting commercial airline traffic. Last week, thick smog enveloped Shanghai and parts of eastern China,  cutting visibility in the city of Nanjing to less than 50 meters and resulting in many flight delays and cancellations.

Thick smog impacting visibility has also caused cancellations and delays at Beijing Capital International Airport, the nation’s busiest and worst in terms of on-time performance, with only 45% of flights departing on time in November, according to travel industry monitor FlightStats.

Depending on weather conditions and runway infrastructure, modern jetliners have sophisticated instruments to help them land in little or no visibility, such as foggy conditions. Pilots, though, need additional certification to perform such approaches, which usually don’t compromise safety. Airlines have varying rules on minimum visibility levels acceptable for landing, though low-visibility landings are frequently done by major airlines in the West.

The special certification for pilots to make low-visibility landings, a common international requirement, applies to situations where visibility drops to 350 meters or less.

via China Says Pilot Should Be Able to Land in Low Visibility, Battling High Traffic and Pollution – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


China state media under fire for arguing benefits of smog | Reuters

Commentaries by two of China\’s most influential news outlets suggesting that the country\’s air pollution crisis was not without a silver lining drew a withering reaction on Tuesday from internet users and other media.

A man wears a mask while walking on a bridge during a hazy day in Shanghai's financial district of Pudong December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

In online commentaries on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV and the widely read tabloid the Global Times, published by the Communist Party\’s official People\’s Daily, both tried to put a positive spin on China\’s smog problem.

The Global Times said smog could be useful in military situations, as it could hinder the use of guided missiles, while CCTV listed five \”unforeseen rewards\” for smog, including helping Chinese people\’s sense of humor.

via China state media under fire for arguing benefits of smog | Reuters.


Commentary: China must find unique way to build ecological civilization – Xinhua |

China must find a way different from the industrialization in the West to build ecological civilization and realize sustainable development, which concerns the future of both the nation and the world.

After solving the food and clothing problems of its 1.3 billion people, the world\’s second-largest economy has encountered a bottleneck as its fast growth has led to adverse side effects for the ecological environment.

How to curb environmental pollution is a totally new issue for China, as it has no precedents to follow.

China cannot copy the industrialization in Western countries, who did not turn to environment management until they became rich and transferred their highly polluting sectors to developing countries.

The environmental problems faced by China happened over a short period of 30 years, while it took industrialized countries more than two centuries to resolve the issue.

\”China cannot be like developed countries, whose peak carbon emissions appeared when gross domestic product (GDP) per capita hit 40,000 U.S. dollars,\” said Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China\’s National Development and Reform Commission.

He said China started to adopt measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when its GDP per capita reached 3,000 dollars.

Besides, factors such as the international division of labor led to China receiving many polluting industries from developed countries. Few chances remain for China to transfer these sectors abroad.

With the coexistence of insufficient development and accompanying side effects, tackling pollution in China and many other developing countries requires more determination and courage than required of developed countries.

In China, building ecological civilization has been elevated to a high level of state will and strategy.

At the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2007, then Chinese President Hu Jintao advocated ecological progress for the first time in his report.

The 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 incorporated building ecological civilization into the overall development plan, while the just-concluded Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee made clear arrangements for deepening the institutional reform of ecological civilization.

via Commentary: China must find unique way to build ecological civilization – Xinhua |


China to launch two new carbon trading exchanges | Reuters

China will launch two new pilot carbon trading schemes this week in Beijing and Shanghai as it strives to cut soaring rates of greenhouse gas, reduce choking smog and determine the best system for a nationwide roll-out.

China, the world\’s biggest source of climate-changing carbon emissions, is under domestic pressure from its population to counter air pollution and has pledged to cut the 2005 rate of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP growth by 40-45 percent by 2020.

As U.N.-led climate talks stumbled in Warsaw last week, the country\’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua was keen to push the country\’s CO2 cutting credentials, challenging developed nations to match the efforts being made by China to tackle global warming.

The new platforms, which will force industrial firms to buy credits to cover any CO2 they emit above allocated quotas, also underscore Beijing\’s commitment to \”market mechanisms\” to slow emissions growth, in line with an ambitious raft of reforms outlined earlier this month.

\”It is definitely a move in the right direction, but there are concerns about activity — these are pilot schemes and are used as a learning experience, and local governments might not be particularly concerned by volumes,\” said Shawn He, a climate lawyer with the Hualian legal practice in Beijing.

Trading is likely to start slowly as the government treads cautiously and tries to learn lessons from Europe, where an excess of credits has left carbon prices in the doldrums.

Hualian\’s He said there were concerns how effective the pilot schemes would be, as no binding carbon caps would be imposed on enterprises and there were no legal means of forcing them to participate.

via China to launch two new carbon trading exchanges | Reuters.


Between a desert and a dry place: Beijing’s green projects drain scarce water resources | South China Morning Post

Smog-plagued Beijing is anxiously awaiting its first batch of synthetic natural gas – a material converted from coal and piped 300 kilometres from Heshigten Banner in northeastern Inner Mongolia.


The gas will power some of Beijing\’s central heating systems in the harsh winter months, replacing coal to cut harmful emissions of particulate pollutants.

When the pipes are fully pumping next year, Beijing will receive 4 billion cubic metres of synthetic gas a year – nearly half of last year\’s natural gas consumption – a step towards switching all the city\’s heating systems and industrial boilers from coal to gas.

But there is an ominous tinge to the seemingly green investment: environmental experts say the water-intensive conversion process could drain already scarce water resources in the country\’s drylands in the northwest, eroding land and causing more sandstorms.

\”If water depletion continues … not only will the local people suffer, the environmental impact could be profound,\” Chinese Academy of Sciences ecology researcher Xie Yan says.

Nationwide, replacing dirty coal with cleaner natural gas is a key measure in reducing the choking smog that spreads over more than a quarter of the country and is inhaled by nearly 600 million people. Because of the country\’s limited conventional natural gas and abundant coal reserves, converting coal to natural gas seems a convenient choice.

Beijing\’s demand for natural gas is expected to rise rapidly, reaching 18 billion tonnes in 2015 and 28 billion tonnes in 2020, as all its heating systems and industrial boilers make the switch from coal to gas. Beijing Gas Group, which is fully owned by the municipal government, has invested in the coal-to-gas project in Inner Mongolia to meet the demand.

The coal-to-gas industry, which had been sputtering for several years, received a boost in September when the State Council released a national action plan to fight air pollution, giving the sector explicit support.

But ecological experts have voiced concern for the unintended environmental consequence of coal-to-gas plants. The conversion requires vast quantities of water not just for production, but also for cooling and the removal of contaminants. On average, one cubic metre of synthetic natural gas needs six to 10 tonnes of freshwater.

\”Freshwater is a key raw material for turning coal to gas, so it\’s impossible to reduce water demand in such projects,\” Wen Hua, an associate at the US-based World Resources Institute (WRI), says.

To make things worse, the coal-abundant northwest, where the gas projects are based, already experiences chronic water shortages. Five provinces – Shanxi , Shaanxi , Ningxia , Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang – which possess 76 per cent of the country\’s coal reserves, have just 6.14 per cent of its total water resources.

via Between a desert and a dry place: Beijing’s green projects drain scarce water resources | South China Morning Post.


Green China? It Leads the World in Adding Renewable Electricity – Businessweek

China has earned a reputation as the world’s worst polluter. But if the International Energy Agency is right, the Asian nation is on course to set an example for the rest of the planet on the use of energy from renewable sources over the next quarter-century.

Power lines transmit electricity generated by the Three Gorges Hydropower Station at the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, China, on July 22

According to the Paris-based agency’s World Energy Outlook, China will add more electricity generating capacity from renewable sources by 2035 than the U.S., Europe, and Japan combined. Hydro power and wind power will be the two main sources of China’s renewably sourced electricity, with solar photovoltaic cells coming in a distant third, according to the agency’s forecast. (Sorry, no link to the outlook: The IEA charges €120 ($162) for a paper copy.)

China is predicted to add more electricity generating capacity from renewable sources by 2035 than the U.S., Europe, and Japan combined.

These forecasts for China are from the agency’s central scenario, which assumes “cautious” implementation of policies that have been announced by governments but not put into effect as of mid-2013. The agency has two other scenarios, one assuming no new policies are enacted and another assuming drastic action against global warming that gives the world “a 50 percent chance of keeping to 2 degrees Celsius the long-term increase in average global temperature.”

From everything we’ve read in recent years about China’s insatiable thirst for energy, you might think the world’s No. 2 economy is going even bigger into coal than renewables, but that’s not the case, at least according to the IEA. The agency predicts that China’s share of global coal consumption will actually shrink a bit from 2011 to 2035.

China’s leadership has made energy a top priority. In 2011, the nation’s 12th Five-Year Plan set a goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the five years through 2015.

via Green China? It Leads the World in Adding Renewable Electricity – Businessweek.

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The politics of Chinese dam-building: Opening the floodgates

The Economist: “CHINA has many good reasons not to build the $5.2 billion Xiaonanhai dam on the Yangzi river in Chongqing. The site, on a gentle slope that moves water along only slowly, is not ideal for generating hydropower. The fertile soil makes it one of China’s most productive regions, so it is densely populated with farmers reaping good harvests. And the dam (see map), which would produce only 10% of the electricity of the Three Gorges project downstream, could destroy a rare fish preserve, threatening several endangered species including the Yangzi sturgeon.

Yet it does not matter how strong the case may be against Xiaonanhai, because the battle against a hydropower scheme in China is usually lost before it is fought. The political economy of dam-building is rigged. Though the Chinese authorities have made much progress in evaluating the social and environmental impact of dams, the emphasis is still on building them, even when mitigating the damage would be hard. Critics have called it the “hydro-industrial complex”: China has armies of water engineers (including Hu Jintao, the former president) and at least 300 gigawatts of untapped hydroelectric potential. China’s total generating capacity in 2012 was 1,145GW, of which 758GW came from coal-burning plants.

An important motive for China to pursue hydropower is, ironically, the environment. China desperately needs to expand its energy supply while reducing its dependence on carbon-based fuels, especially coal. The government wants 15% of power consumption to come from clean or renewable sources by 2020, up from 9% now. Hydropower is essential for achieving that goal, as is nuclear power. “Hydro, including large hydro in China, is seen as green,” says Darrin Magee, an expert on Chinese dams at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York state.

There is also a political reason why large hydro schemes continue to go ahead. Dambuilders and local governments have almost unlimited power to plan and approve projects, whereas environmental officials have almost no power to stop them.”

via The politics of dam-building: Opening the floodgates | The Economist.

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China to cut coal use, shut polluters, in bid to clear the air

China‘s fight against pollution continues unabated. Hope it is enough to save China (and the world).

Reuters: “China unveiled comprehensive new measures to tackle air pollution on Thursday, with plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, but experts said implementing the bold targets would be a major challenge.Vehicles past apartment blocks during rush hour in Beijing July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China has been under heavy pressure to address the causes of air pollution after thick, hazardous smog engulfed much of the industrial north, including the capital, Beijing, in January.

It has also been anxious to head off potential sources of unrest as an increasingly affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China’s air, water and soil.

China published the plan on its official website (, also promising to boost nuclear power and natural gas use. Environmentalists welcomed the plan but were skeptical about its effective implementation.

“The coal consumption reduction targets for key industrial areas are a good sign they are taking air pollution and public health more seriously, but to make those targets happen, the action plan is a bit disappointing and there are loopholes,” said Huang Wei, a campaigner with Greenpeace in Beijing.

Beijing has struggled to get wayward provinces and industries to adhere to its anti-pollution measures and there were few concrete measures in the new plan to help strengthen its ability to monitor and punish those who violate the rules.

“We don’t see any fundamental structural changes, and this could be a potential risk in China’s efforts to meet targets to reduce PM 2.5,” said Huang, referring to China’s plan to cut a key indicator of air pollution by 25 percent in Beijing and surrounding provinces by 2017.

Coal, which supplies more than three-quarters of China’s total electricity needs, has been identified as one of the main areas it needs to tackle. China would cut total consumption of the fossil fuel to below 65 percent of primary energy use by 2017 under the new plan, down from 66.8 percent last year.

Green groups were expecting the action plan to include detailed regional coal consumption cuts, but those cuts appear to have been left to the provinces to settle themselves.

Northern Hebei province, China‘s biggest steel-producing region, has announced it would slash coal use by 40 million metric tons over the 2012-2015 period.

Other targets in the plan were also generally in line with a previous plans. It said it would aim to raise the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 13 percent by 2017, up from 11.4 percent in 2012. Its previous target stood at 15 percent by 2020.

To help meet that target, it would raise installed nuclear capacity to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2017, up from 12.5 GW now and slightly accelerating a previous 2020 target of 58 GW.

It would add 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas trunk pipeline transmission capacity by the end of 2015 to cover industrial areas like the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas in the east and southeast.”

via China to cut coal use, shut polluters, in bid to clear the air | Reuters.

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Holding back the sands of time

China Daily: “Desert dwellers are slowly reclaiming cultivatable land, as Cui Jia and Mao Weihua report from Hotan, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Holding back the sands of time

Hotan prefecture in the southwest of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is famous for two things: jade and sand. The locals still try to pluck the precious stones from the dry bed of the Yurungkash River, also known as the White Jade River, but the rising value of jade means the place has almost been picked clean after repeated treasure hunts, so the chances of making new discoveries are slim. However, in this area bordering the Taklimakan, the world’s second-largest desert, the sand will never disappear.

Almost every one in Hotan lives close to the more than 300 oases, large and small, that are dotted around the southern edge of the Taklimakan. Those enclosed by the desert only account for 3.7 percent of Hotan’s total area. As a result, people have to cope with windborne sand for more than 260 days a year. On a bad day, they have to be prepared to seek cover from sandstorms, which can blacken the sky within minutes and without warning. In addition to the health problems posed by the storms, sand carried at high speed can erode buildings and strip the paintwork from vehicles.

A new artificial greenbelt in Hotan county in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Photos by Mao Weihua / China Daily

In Hotan, the transition between oases, fed by the floodwater from northern Hotan’s Kunlun Mountains, and the desert is almost instantaneous. One minute the scenery along the road is pure yellow desert and the next, tall poplar trees on both sides of the road suddenly begin to provide comfortable shade from the searing heat.

“At the current rate, the prefecture has been losing 33 square kilometers of oases every year, due to the invasion of the Taklimakan and the construction of infrastructure. Meanwhile, the local population is booming, so we have no choice but to create about 66 sq km of oases every year,” said Chen Baojun, Party chief of the prefecture’s forestry bureau, who has 20 years experience in desertification control.

He said the sand from the Taklimakan can be carried as far away as Beijing and sometimes even as far as Japan, meaning control of desertification in Hotan has both a national and international resonance.

Qira county was once a kingdom on the ancient Silk Road in the days of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220). The county seat has relocated north three times because the sands have eaten up the cultivatable land. The first relocation occurred more than 2,000 years ago and the most recent about 620 years ago.

In the 1980s, the county seat faced yet another relocation because the desert was only about 1.5 km away. Many locals were forced to move because their houses were buried under sand, often overnight.

It was at that point that the government stepped in to provide measures against desertification. In the days before the measures, the locals tried to prevent the sand from encroaching on their homes by erecting fences around the houses, said Chen.”

via Holding back the sands of time[1]|

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China to invest $375 billion on energy conservation, pollution: paper

Reuters: “China plans to invest 2.3 trillion yuan ($375 billion) in energy saving and emission-reduction projects in the five years through 2015 to clean up its environment, the China Daily newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing a senior government official.

The plan, which has been approved by the State Council, is on top of a 1.85 trillion yuan investment in the renewable energy sector, underscoring the government’s concerns about addressing a key source of social discontent.

China has set a target of reducing its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level, and raising non-fossil energy consumption to 15 percent of its energy mix, Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), was quoted as saying.

As part of broader plans to curb pollution, the government will also roll out tiered power pricing for eight energy intensive industries, while sectors that struggle with overcapacity will face higher power tariffs, Xie said.

The government will also gradually expand a carbon trading pilot program to more cities starting from 2015, with the aim of creating a national market, he said.

Seven cities and provinces, including Shanghai, were ordered by the NDRC in late 2011 to set up regional carbon trading markets.”

via China to invest $375 billion on energy conservation, pollution: paper | Reuters.

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