Archive for ‘Pollution’


A Green Group Sees Hope in ‘The End of China’s Coal Boom’ – –

A report from Greenpeace charts slowing growth in China’s coal use.

Through much of its history, Greenpeace has been big on what I call “woe is me, shame on you” messaging on the environment. As I explained at a TEDx event in Portland, Ore., over the weekend, fingerpointing (including Greenpeace’s) is appropriate in many instances, but doesn’t work well with human-driven global warming. The blame game too often ends up resembling a circular firing squad.

This is why “The End of China’s Coal Boom,” a valuable new report from Greenpeace’s East Asia office, is so refreshing and worth exploring. I was led to it by a Twitter item from the group’s outgoing director, Phil Radford, that focused on a telling graphic:

View image on Twitter

via A Green Group Sees Hope in ‘The End of China’s Coal Boom’ – –

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Growth Not Good Enough: Chinese City Changes the Rules – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Fast growth is no longer the fast track on the official career path.  At least that’s what the city of Shenyang is trying to tell its Communist Party cadres.

According to the People’s Daily, the Shenyang government is changing its rating system for officials, lowering the scores for economic development and GDP growth while adding points for “reform and innovation” and  environmental protection (in Chinese).

Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province and the largest city in northeastern China, used to be the home of the nation’s iron and steel industry and was best known for its forest of smokestacks and chimneys. Now the city is hoping to reduce its dependence on heavy industry and erase its reputation for soot and smog.

The newspaper said that “food and drug safety” and “public health and safety” will be added to improving people’s livelihood, increasing employment and ensuring housing security in the calculations of which officials get promoted – and which fall behind.

An official at the municipal government confirmed that the change had been made though he was unable to provide further details on the actual scoring system.

China’s Communist Party chief Xi Jinping said in November last year that China could no longer “choose its heroes according to economic growth records alone.” Improvements in daily life, social progress, environmental protection and other indicators all had to be taken into account, he added.

Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at the annual session of parliament in March, also tried to address mounting public concerns over the pollution that has accompanied economic growth by saying that China was no longer chasing fast growth at any price. He said employment was now the government’s top concern.

Chen Haibo, mayor of Shenyang, has echoed those sentiments.

“The threshold for environmental protection will be much higher this year,” he said at a meeting of the local legislature early this year.

The mayor also noted that Shenyang’s economic growth target would be 9% this year – its lowest level in over a decade. Last year, growth in Shenyang came in at 10%, down from 11% the previous year, according to the provincial government’s official news site.

China has some of the best environmental laws on the planet, but the rewards for breaking them have long outweighed the penalties. If Shenyang follows through, and other cities follow suit, it could be very good news for China’s environment.

via Growth Not Good Enough: Chinese City Changes the Rules – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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BBC News – China Maoming environmental protest violence condemned

Authorities have condemned an environmental protest in southern China that turned violent, calling it “serious criminal behaviour“.

Residents ride past a burning public security kiosk during a protest against a chemical plant project, on a street in Maoming, Guangdong province, 1 April 2014

Residents in Maoming, Guangdong province, on Sunday protested against the construction of a petrochemical plant that manufactures paraxylene.

Violence broke out, with reports of several injured protesters. On Tuesday, the protests spread to Guangzhou.

Protests are rare in China, where it is illegal to protest without a permit.

Hundreds of Maoming residents marched on the streets on Sunday, protesting against the proposed plant. Some protesters said turnout was more than 1,000.

Clashes with police broke out, with reports of tear gas being fired at protesters. Photos and videos posted on Chinese social media appeared to show injured protesters, police chasing demonstrators with batons, and burning cars.

Smaller protests appeared to continue, spreading to Guangzhou, the provincial capital, on Tuesday.

via BBC News – China Maoming environmental protest violence condemned.

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China’s Hangzhou latest city to restrict car sales | Reuters

China’s eastern city of Hangzhou will start restricting car sales from Wednesday, joining major cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, in the fight against snarling traffic and heavy smog in the world’s largest automobile market.

Cars drive on the Three Ring Road amid the heavy haze in Beijing February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The Hangzhou government said on Tuesday the curbs would take effect while it canvassed public opinion on details of the move.

It is proposing limiting sales to 80,000 units every 12 months, to be split evenly over that period, the government said on the city’s official website (

A final decision on details of the curbs will be released at the end of April, the government added.

China’s leaders have declared a “war” on pollution, as they seeks to calm public ire over water, air and soil pollution that often reaches levels experts consider hazardous.

This has seen an increasing number of Chinese cities limit sales of gasoline vehicles, a key contributor to air pollution.

The trend is pushing carmakers to shift their focus towards smaller cities and speed the development of electric vehicles, which are free from similar curbs.

The Hangzhou government said the decision aimed to tackle both pollution and traffic jams.

via China’s Hangzhou latest city to restrict car sales | Reuters.

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India’s Diesel Fuel Subsidy Breeds Toxic Air Pollution – Businessweek

Molecular biologist George Easow’s move to India to start a clinical diagnostics business lasted just three weeks before he decided to give up and return to the U.K. Within days of the family’s move to New Delhi, his 7-month-old daughter, Fiona, was wheezing and gasping for air because of smog. “She could hardly breathe,” says her father.

India's Diesel Cars Are Proving Lethal

Fiona was kept indoors and put on medication. Nothing worked. “We had to make a call,” Easow says, adding that her symptoms disappeared once they were back in the U.K. and haven’t returned. For the 16.8 million residents of India’s capital, the wheezing continues. The bad news is, it’s going to get worse.

Cities across India suffer from some of the poorest air quality in the world. The problem is so severe that it’s costing the country 1.1 trillion rupees ($18 billion) annually in the shortened life spans of productive members of the urban population, according to a June World Bank report.

STORY: Who Has Dirtier Air: China or India?

While Beijing and Shanghai air pollution caused by coal-burning factories are well known, Delhi residents suffer even more by some measures, though the main source of the smog is cars and trucks running on cheap diesel. Indian government subsidies for the fuel add up to $15 billion a year. Farmers and truckers, both big voting blocs, rely on cheap diesel.

India’s diesel-powered vehicles pump out exhaust gases with 10 times the carcinogenic particles found in gasoline exhaust. The result: Delhi’s air on average last year was laced with double the toxic particles per cubic meter reported in Beijing, leading to respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and heart attacks. “I have no doubt, 100 percent, that diesel exhaust is contributing to a rise in asthma, respiratory illnesses, and hospitalizations,” says Dr. T.K. Joshi, director of Delhi’s Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at Maulana Azad Medical College.

via India’s Diesel Fuel Subsidy Breeds Toxic Air Pollution – Businessweek.

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* China to ‘declare war’ on pollution, premier says | Reuters

China is to “declare war” on pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday at the opening of the annual meeting of parliament, with the government unveiling detailed measures to tackle what has become a hot-button social issue.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gives an address during a news conference with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (not pictured) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 6, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool

It is not uncommon for air pollution in parts of China to breach levels considered by some experts to be hazardous. That has drawn much public ire and is a worry for the government, which fears any discontent that might compromise stability.

“We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty,” Li told the almost 3,000 delegates to the country’s largely rubber-stamp legislature in a wide-ranging address carried live on state television.

Curbing pollution has become a key part of efforts to upgrade the economy, shift the focus away from heavy industry and tackle the perennial problem of overcapacity, with Li describing smog as “nature’s red-light warning against inefficient and blind development”.

“This is an acknowledgement at the highest level that there is a crisis,” said Craig Hart, expert on Chinese environmental policy and associate professor at China’s Renmin University.

“Their approach is going to have to be pro-economy. I think they will pump money into upgrading plants. This could be another green stimulus although it is not being packaged that way.”

China has published a series of policies and plans aimed at addressing environmental problems but it has long struggled to bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local governments to heel.

Li said efforts would focus first on reducing hazardous particulate matter known as PM 2.5 and PM 10 and would also be aimed at eliminating outdated energy producers and industrial plants, the source of much air pollution.

China will cut outdated steel production capacity by a total of 27 million tonnes this year, slash cement production by 42 million tonnes, and also shut down 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces across the country, Li said.

The 27 million tonnes of steel, equivalent to Italy’s production capacity, amounts to less than 2.5 percent of China’s total, and industry officials have warned that plants with another 30 million tonnes of annual output went into construction last year.

The targeted cement closures amount to less than 2 percent of last year’s total production.

The battle against pollution will also be waged via reforms in energy pricing to boost non-fossil fuel power. Li promised change in “the way energy is consumed and produced” through the development of nuclear and renewables, the deployment of smart power transmission grids, and the promotion of green and low-carbon technology.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s economic planner, said in its report that new guidelines would be issued on relocating key industries away from urban centers to help tackle smog.

via China to ‘declare war’ on pollution, premier says | Reuters.

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* China to spend $330 billion to fight water pollution -paper | Reuters

China has a fifth of the world’s population but just 7 percent of its water resources, and the situation is especially precarious in its parched north, where some regions have less water per capita than the Middle East.

A man walks by a pipe discharging waste water into the Yangtze River from a paper mill in Anqing, Anhui province, December 4, 2013. REUTERS/William Hong

The plan is still being finalized but the budget has been set, exceeding the 1.7 trillion yuan ($277 billion) China plans to spend battling its more-publicized air pollution crisis, the China Securities Journal reported, citing the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

It will aim to improve the quality of China’s water by 30 to 50 percent, the paper said, through investments in technologies such as waste water treatment, recycling and membrane technology.

The paper did not say how the funds would be raised, when the plan would take effect, or what timeframe was visualized, however.

Groundwater resources are heavily polluted, threatening access to drinking water, Environment Minister Zhai Qing told a news conference in the capital, Beijing, last week.

According to government data, a 2012 survey of 5,000 groundwater check points found 57.3 percent of samples to be heavily polluted.

China emits around 24 million tons of COD, or chemical oxygen demand, a measure of organic matter in waste water, and 2.45 million tons of ammonia nitrogen, into its water each year, Zhai said.

Over the next five years, China has previously estimated it will need to spend a total of 60 billion yuan to set up sludge treatment facilities, and a further 10 billion yuan for annual operation, the environment ministry says.

China is short on water to begin with but its water problems are made worse by its reliance on coal – which uses massive amounts of water to suppress dust and clean the fuel before it is burnt – to generate nearly 70 percent of its electricity while self-sufficiency in food remains a key political priority.

via China to spend $330 billion to fight water pollution -paper | Reuters.

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Electric private hire cars (made in China) launched in London | Fleet News

Private hire chauffeur operator Thriev has launched a fleet of 20 zero-emission, fully-electric BYD e6 cars in London.

Thriev is the first company to offer low-cost, zero-emission, chauffeured vehicles to corporate and private users in London. The BYD e6 is ideally suited for private hire operations, providing a range of up to 186 miles and the 20 private hire cars will be able to be recharged both at the depot and on the road thanks to British Gas.

The new fleet is the result of a shared ‘green city solution’ vision, to bring reliable, emission-free transport to London’s roads, replacing petrol and diesel powered vehicles with electric ones. The 20 BYD e6 vehicles operated by Thriev join two fully-electric BYD buses that are already in service with Go-Ahead Group on two central Transport for London routes.

The Thriev service will be supported by a brand new city-wide charging network installed by British Gas in addition to its own rapid charging stations. British Gas has been leading the delivery of the UK’s charging infrastructure for electric vehicles since 2010. The first rapid chargers, made by BYD and capable of charging an e6 to 80% in just 30 minutes, have already been installed at Thriev’s Edgware Road facility. As the service expands across the UK, creating one of the largest of its kind, it will eventually see each unit of electricity matched with a unit of 100% British renewable electricity.

via Electric private hire cars launched in London | Fleet News.

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China says gets tough on polluters, nixes projects worth $19.5 billion | Reuters

China’s environmental watchdog vetoed as many as 32 projects with a total investment of 118.4 billion yuan ($19.5 billion) last year as it stepped up efforts to get tough on industrial polluters, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Buildings are pictured amid the heavy haze at night in Beijing's central business district, January 30, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Zhai Qing, the vice-environment minister, told reporters his ministry was working to improve its environmental assessment capabilities and strengthen its powers to monitor and punish polluters.

“I think our ability to enforce and monitor is extremely important… and since last year, we have been constantly trying to strengthen our abilities,” he added.

Beijing is under intense pressure to clean up its heavily polluted air, water and soil in the face of mounting public anger, but enforcement has been identified as one its biggest challenges, with the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) struggling to find the clout to take on powerful industrial interests and growth-obsessed local authorities.

Officials have acknowledged that the ministry’s punitive powers are limited. Fines are far lower than the cost of compliance and many big companies are willing to pay up and continue breaking the law.

The ministry is now hoping to extend its authority as China’s new leadership promises to abandon the crude pursuit of economic growth. A new environmental law is likely to raise the fines imposed on polluters, and sources say the ministry’s powers could be expanded further in a government shake-up expected to take place in March.

via China says gets tough on polluters, nixes projects worth $19.5 billion | Reuters.

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China considers new powers for pollution watchdog as part of government shakeup | Reuters

China could grant its undersized environment ministry new powers over resources, possibly allowing it to veto future projects, and more muscle to punish polluters as part of a government shake-up to tackle decades of unchecked growth.

Sources with ties to the leadership told Reuters that the government was considering a sweeping reorganization of cabinet ministries next month that will dissolve the Ministry of Land and Resources and transfer some powers to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), long regarded as too weak to punish law-breaking polluters.

Amendments to China’s 1989 environmental law, likely to be rubber-stamped at the annual session of the country’s legislature next month, are expected to also give the environment ministry the powers to impose unlimited penalties on firms that fail to rectify problems and allow regulators to suspend or shut down persistent offenders.

A nationwide monitoring system will be established to force industries to disclose exactly how much pollution they cause, and it will become a criminal offence to misuse or switch off pollution control technology and misreport emission levels.

via China considers new powers for pollution watchdog as part of government shakeup | Reuters.

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