Archive for ‘Ecology’


China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek

Even as northern China, including Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province, continues to suffer from hazardous air—“people with respiratory issues are advised to stay indoors or wear protective masks,” the official English language China Daily advised earlier today, Nov.20—some relief may be on the longer-term horizon.

The Baosteel Group Corp. facilities in Shanghai, China

Chinese authorities in Hebei province, one of China’s largest steel-producing regions, announced they plan to relocate steel, cement, and glass factories overseas over the next decade. The many industrial factories that surround Beijing and Tianjin are known to be a major source of the lung-choking smog that periodically smothers much of northern China. Hebei province alone produces 200 million tons of steel annually, or about one-quarter of China’s total production.

“The initiative comes at a time when local steel, cement, and glass producers are struggling, with sluggish growth in the world’s second-largest economy crippling demand for their products. In many cases, it has led to severe overcapacity,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Nov. 19.

By 2017, according to Hebei authorities, Hebei plans to move 5 million tons of steel production capacity, the same amount for cement, and 3 million “weight boxes” of glass production (a weight box is roughly 50 kg, the paper explained). Much more will be moved in the following six years, through 2023, including 20 million tons of steel, 30 million of cement, and 10 million weight boxes of glass production, Xinhua reported.

While steel manufacturers will be encouraged through unspecified preferential policies to relocate some production in Africa and Asia, cement and glass producers will go to those two regions, as well as South America and Central and East Europe.

“Hebei is a major source of industrial pollutants blamed for the notorious choking smog that often spreads to neighboring regions like Beijing,” Xinhua reported.

via China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek.


China battles to be first ecological civilisation – environment – 13 June 2014 – New Scientist

SO YOU want to live in a country that is guided by a philosophy of “ecological civilisation”, run by people with the vision to implement policies that will benefit their children even if it costs more in the short term? Move to China.

Easing off coal

Not convinced? Last week, news circulated that China is considering limiting its greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak in 2030, followed by an orchestrated fall.

It was one man’s view, expressed at a Beijing conference, not an official announcement. But He Jiankun is chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, and his words are in line with actions China is now taking to address global warming.

“China is already doing a lot,” says Fergus Green of the London School of Economics. “They are probably making the most progress of any country, given that they are starting from a position that is far more challenging.”

“Things are changing very, very fast,” says Changhua Wu of The Climate Group think tank in Beijing.

To be clear, China is still the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. Cities like Beijing are plagued by smog, and efforts to clean them up may just move the pollution elsewhere. But there is a huge push for change.

Water scarcity and awareness that China will suffer from global warming are factors, but it is health concerns that loom large. The air in many cities is dangerous to breathe, the water is toxic and there are often food health scares. “People are fed up,” says Wu.

Premier Li Keqiang has declared a “war on pollution”. His leadership has drawn up a philosophical framework called ecological civilisation. It aims to “bring everything back to the relationship between man and nature”, says Wu, and is driving major changes.

Prompted by the idea that used resources must be paid for, China has launched carbon trading schemes in six areas. There, companies must pay to pollute, and abide by a cap on overall emissions. A seventh scheme should start within weeks. They will form the world’s second largest carbon trading scheme, after Europe’s. A national programme should begin this decade.

China has set targets to make more wealth using less energy and it is on course to meet them. It contributes one-fifth of global investment in renewables, more than any other nation, has more installed wind power than anywhere else and in 2013 doubled its solar capacity.

The smog is turning people off dirty power. Construction of coal-fired power stations peaked in 2007 (see graph), and smaller power stations are being switched off. According to the London-based think tank Carbon Tracker, 10 out of 30 provinces have cut their coal use, and wind capacity is growing twice as fast as coal. “The coal-fired power plants that China is building are some of the most high-tech and efficient available,” says Carbon Tracker’s Luke Sussams. There are also schemes in place to make people who pollute water pay those who suffer as a result.

Environmentalists have pushed policies like these for years. But while Western nations debate them, China is testing them and rolling out those that work.

via China battles to be first ecological civilisation – environment – 13 June 2014 – New Scientist.


Air, Water, Soil: China’s Environment Gets Worse – Businessweek

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.

Pollution levels in several of China's major rivers has grown more severe since 2010

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.

via Air, Water, Soil: China’s Environment Gets Worse – Businessweek.


China’s Pollution Police Are Watching – Businessweek

At 7 a.m. on a recent March morning, Xu Xiaoshun hops behind the wheel and turns the key. His Chang’an Leopard truck puffs out some black smoke and shivers to life as Xu begins his daily gamble. Every morning, including weekends, he leaves the one-room apartment he shares with his wife, drives almost 10 kilometers (six miles) to a market, picks up construction materials, and delivers them to job sites in and around Hangzhou, a city of 8.8 million. Often, his route takes him through areas of the city where his truck is banned because of its dirty emissions. “This truck isn’t allowed on some roads,” Xu says as he steps on the gas. “But when an order comes, I must take a risk.”

China's Pollution Police Are Watching

As air pollution in China becomes a national crisis—only three of the 74 cities monitored last year had acceptable air quality, according to a March report from the Ministry of Environmental Protection—Hangzhou and other cities have declared war on dirty cars and trucks. High-emission vehicles such as Xu’s must display yellow stickers on their windshields. (Cleaner cars are marked with green ones.) In Hangzhou, yellow-tagged cars and trucks are banned from the city’s main areas from 6 a.m. to midnight.

About 13 percent of China’s 224 million vehicles had yellow labels as of 2012, but they accounted for more than half of carbon monoxide emissions and more than 80 percent of airborne particulates, government statistics show. Cities across the nation must meet a national goal of forcing all yellow-label vehicles off the roads by 2017. In Hengshui, one of China’s most polluted cities, officials have mandated a phaseout of diesel-powered vehicles more than nine years old, triggering grumblings from owners in online forums.

via China’s Pollution Police Are Watching – Businessweek.

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Environment: Browner, but greener | The Economist

China stands out for its greenness in a new environmental ranking

CHINA is the world’s biggest polluter, so it is no surprise that it fares poorly on some measures of pollution in a new global index of environmental performance. The shock is that it also stands out for its world-beating greenness in other areas on the same index.

The Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a joint product of America’s Yale and Columbia universities, is the latest volume in a long-running biennial ranking of 178 countries on a variety of measures of environmental performance. New this year are assessments of performance in waste-water treatment and combating climate change, as well as the clever use of satellite data (to track trends in forestry and air pollution) in order to top up traditional computer modelling and official data.

The report’s conclusions are more cheerful than most green report cards. The experts believe countries are doing well in improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and in bringing down child mortality. However, the global trends are worrying in other areas like fisheries, wastewater treatment and air quality. Overall, Switzerland came out top. Somalia came last. China was 118th, a middling ranking that beats India (155th) but falls well below South Africa (72nd), Russia (73rd) and Brazil (77th).

However, that average masks a huge divergence in China’s performance in two areas. Using satellite data, the boffins worked out, for the first time, what global exposures were to fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5) from 2000 to 2012. China ranked at the bottom on air pollution, with nearly all of its population exposed to levels of PM2.5 pollution deemed unhealthy by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Though less frequently criticised than Beijing, Delhi’s air is also terrible—but China as a whole fares worse. In 2012 the average human exposure to PM2.5 for all of China was 48 micrograms per cubic metre, but the national figure for India was only 32 units (the WHO says anything above 10 units is unhealthy).

The surprise is that China has done very well on carbon. The experts calculate that, unusually among big emerging economies, it slowed the rate at which its greenhouse-gas emissions have grown in the past decade. That is partly a natural result of its development, which has led to investment in better technology and cleaner industries, but it is also thanks to policies to improve efficiency and boost renewable energy.

Environmentalists the world over can breathe a little easier knowing that the biggest global polluter has started to slow the rise in its greenhouse-gas emissions and may one day even reduce them. If only China’s urban residents could breathe a little easier, too.

via Environment: Browner, but greener | The Economist.

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China’s Hebei closes more than 8,000 polluting firms in 2013 | Reuters

China shut down 8,347 heavily polluting companies last year in northern Hebei province, which has the worst air in the country, state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday, as the government moves to tackle a problem that has been a source of discontent.

Residents ride bicycles along a street amid heavy haze in Xingtai, Hebei province November 3, 2013. Dense smog has periodically shrouded major cities in north and northeast China in recent years, raising increasing public discontent, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/China Daily

Local authorities will block new projects and punish officials in regions where pollution is severe due to lax enforcement, Xinhua cited Yang Zhiming, deputy director of the Hebei provincial bureau of environmental protection, as saying.

High pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger and officials concerned about social unrest have responded by implementing tougher policies.

Hebei, the country\’s biggest steel producer, is home to as many as seven of its 10 most polluted cities, Xinhua said, citing statistics published monthly by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Pollution in Hebei often spreads to neighboring Beijing and Tianjin. On Thursday, Beijing was blanketed in its worst smog in months. An index measuring PM2.5 particles, especially bad for health, reached 500 in much of the capital in the early hours.

Some small high-polluting plants are being relocated to remote areas to avoid oversight, Xinhua quoted Yang as saying. He said the government would \”beef up the industrial crackdown\”.

China has drawn up dozens of laws and guidelines to improve the environment but has struggled to enforce them in the face of powerful enterprises.

via China’s Hebei closes more than 8,000 polluting firms in 2013 | Reuters.

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* China sets targets for curbing air pollution | Reuters

China has set new targets for its provinces to reduce air pollution by 5 to 25 percent, state media said late on Tuesday, underscoring the government\’s concern about a source of public anger.

English: Air pollution

English: Air pollution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China regularly issues directives to try to tackle air pollution in major cities, but these have had limited effect.

Former health minister Chen Zhu said air pollution in the country causes premature deaths of 350,000 to 500,000 people yearly, state media reported on Tuesday. Chen wrote the article in a December issue of the Lancet medical journal.

Air quality in large parts of northern and southern China reached unhealthy levels on Tuesday.

Under the new regulations, Beijing, its neighboring city of Tianjin and northern Hebei province will have to cut the amount of PM 2.5 particles, which are especially bad for health, by 25 percent annually, state news agency Xinhua said, citing the ministry of environmental protection.

China\’s commercial capital, Shanghai, the eastern provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong and northern Shanxi will have to impose cuts of 20 percent. Reductions of 15 percent were set for Guangdong and Chongqing and 10 percent for the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xinhua said.

The State Council, or cabinet, is mulling a system to evaluate each local government\’s progress and those who fail to reach goals will be \”named and shamed\”, said the China Daily newspaper.

Air quality in cities is of increasing concern to China\’s stability-obsessed leaders, anxious to douse potential unrest as a more affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has poisoned much of the country\’s air, water and soil.

Authorities have invested in various projects to fight pollution and empowered courts to mete out the death penalty in serious cases.

via China sets targets for curbing air pollution | Reuters.

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Tainted farmland to be restored |Society |

Farming of contaminated arable land almost the size of Belgium has been halted and the land will be rehabilitated to ensure food security, a senior official said on Monday.

Tainted farmland to be restored

A soil survey by the Ministry of Environmental Protection found that pollution affects about 3.33 million hectares, Wang Shiyuan, vice-minister of land and resources, said.

\”This finding is similar to the geographical environmental survey by the Ministry of Land and Resources,\” Wang added.

Arable land in China totaled 135.4 million hectares at the end of last year, 15 million hectares more than the bottom line set by the government to ensure food security, Wang said at a news conference, citing the results of the second national land survey released on Monday.

However, the amount of stable cultivated land will drop to 120 million hectares, as some farmland will be converted to forests, grasslands and wetlands, while pollution will leave some land unusable, Wang said.

The environment ministry earlier declined to disclose data related to soil pollution, saying further investigation is needed and that the figure is a State secret.

A nationwide survey on soil pollution was carried out between 2006 and 2010, led by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources, but the results were never made public.

Bai Chengshou, deputy head of the nature and ecology conservation department at the environmental protection ministry, said results will be published in future, with more data included.

\”The current work is to take more samples in key areas with severe soil pollution, so that the results can be more accurate and representative,\” he said.

Bai said a \”soil pollution action plan\”, similar to the Airborne Pollution Action Plan (2013-17) released by the central government in mid-September, is being prepared.

He said the plan, which will provide a detailed framework for national soil pollution control measures before 2017, is likely to be released around June after being approved by the State Council.

Wang said the swaths of polluted farmland are concentrated in developed eastern and central regions and in the northeastern industrial belt.

He singled out Hunan province which, with its booming heavy industries, had repeatedly reported much higher levels of cadmium found in rice than permitted by national standards.

Answering a China Daily question on whether the tainted land is still being farmed, Wang said no further planting will be allowed on it, as food safety is a top concern for governments at various levels.

Each year, the central government will earmark several billion yuan to rehabilitate farmland tainted by heavy metals and threatened by the over-draining of underground water, Wang said, without giving details.

\”Only rehabilitated farmland that has passed assessment will be used again,\” he said.

via Tainted farmland to be restored |Society |

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Opportunity glimmers through China’s toxic smog | Reuters

As China\’s smog levels crept past record highs in early December, the phone lines at pollution-busting kit maker Broad Group lit up with Chinese customers worried about hazardous pollution levels that have gripped China this year.

The financial district of Pudong is seen on a hazy day in Shanghai, in this file picture taken January 21, 2013. China's government is struggling to meet pollution reduction targets and has pledged to spend over 3 trillion yuan ($494 billion) to tackle the problem, creating a growing market for companies that can help boost energy efficiency and lower emissions. REUTERS-Aly Song-Files

China\’s government is struggling to meet pollution reduction targets and has pledged to spend over 3 trillion yuan ($494 billion) to tackle the problem, creating a growing market for companies that can help boost energy efficiency and lower emissions.

\”Recently, we haven\’t been able to make products fast enough to keep up with demand,\” said Hu Jie, a general manager at Broad Group, which makes pollution-related products ranging from hand-held monitors to eco-friendly buildings. Sales roughly doubled this year from 2012, Hu said, without giving details.

Pollution problems in China, the world\’s second-biggest economy, are by no means new. But heightened public anger – and a growing political will to deal with the issue – has created opportunities for firms with sustainable know-how to earn a slice of China\’s clean-technology market, which is set to triple to $555 billion by 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Companies like U.S. clean-energy expert Fuel Tech Inc, design engineer WS Atkins Plc and others have seized the opening by boosting staff numbers and clinching contracts.

\”China has reached a saturation level which people can no longer tolerate,\” said Feng An, president and executive director of the U.S.-China Clean Tech Center, which takes U.S. clean technology companies to China to meet potential partners.

\”Five years ago people could pollute and get away with it. Now they can\’t. This year you can really see the difference.\”


Pollution cost China\’s economy at least 1.1 trillion yuan ($181 billion) in 2010, the environment ministry estimated this year – equal to 2.5 percent of GDP that year. Pollution has been tied to \”cancer villages\” and reduced life-expectancy. Smog even closed down the major northern city of Harbin in October.

Acknowledging public anxiety over the issue, Premier Li Keqiang said in March that China should not sacrifice the environment to pursue economic growth, giving a boost to \”green\” companies.

U.S. environmental engineering company LP Amina, which helps coal power plants reduce emissions by retrofitting burners to make them more efficient, saw its China sales double this year, said the firm\’s marketing manager Jamyan Dudka, without providing specific figures. Coal accounts for more than two-thirds of China\’s primary energy consumption.

China is pushing to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants from power plant emissions and offering subsidies to get firms on board. The cost of retrofitting all China\’s power plants over a 5-year period is around $11 billion, said Dudka.

U.S.-listed Fuel Tech, which also focuses in this area, sees China at the forefront of its business development plans, and has increased its China-based staff to more than 30 people, CEO Doug Bailey said on an analyst call last month.


Companies such as UK-listed Atkins and Australian developer Lend Lease Corp Ltd are also leveraging their global expertise in sustainable construction.

Atkins is working with local governments to develop sustainable construction guidelines and will partner with two Chinese cities to put them into action. China\’s contribution to the company\’s 88 million pounds ($144.6 million) in Asia-Pacific revenues increased to 40 percent this year, it said. The region accounts for around 5 percent of global sales.

via Opportunity glimmers through China’s toxic smog | Reuters.


China targets cement, batteries, metals in anti-pollution push | Reuters

China will raise standards for the production of cement, batteries, leather and heavy metals as part of its efforts to cut air, water and soil pollution, the environment ministry said on Friday.

The sun is seen behind smoke billowing from a chimney of a heating plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Beijing, facing growing public anger over smog, contaminated food and unclean water, has said it will tackle the environmental costs of more than three decades of unbridled growth.

It has promised to get tough with under-regulated industries such as cement, iron and steel and coal but the central government has traditionally struggled to impose its will on powerful industrial sectors and local governments.

via China targets cement, batteries, metals in anti-pollution push | Reuters.

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