Archive for ‘Green’

18/06/2016

Study Finds China’s Ecosystems Have Become Healthier – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s skies may be toxic, and its rivers fetid and prone to sudden infestations of pig carcasses. But according to a new study, the country’s environmental battle has also been making quiet, measurable progress.

The paper, a collaboration between U.S. and Chinese researchers published in this week’s issue of Science, found that China’s ecosystems have become healthier and more resilient against such disasters as sandstorms and flooding. The authors partly credit what they describe as the world’s largest government-backed effort to restore natural habitats such as forests and grasslands, totaling some $150 billion in spending since 2000.

“In a more and more turbulent world, with climate change unfolding, it’s really crucial to measure these kinds of things,” says Gretchen Daily, a Stanford biology professor and a senior author on the paper.

The study didn’t examine air, water or soil quality, all deeply entrenched problems for the country.

Beijing’s investments in promoting better ecosystem protection were triggered after a spate of disasters in the 1990s. In particular, authors note, two decades after China started to liberalize its economy, rampant deforestation and soil erosion triggered devastating floods along the Yangtze River in 1998, killing thousands and causing some $36 billion in property damage.

The government subsequently embarked on an effort to try to forestall such environmental catastrophes. According to the study, in the decade following, carbon sequestration went up 23%, soil retention went up 13% and flood mitigation by 13%, with sandstorm prevention up by 6%.

The paper also involved authors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Minnesota, among other institutions. Data was collected by remote sensing and a team of some 3,000 scientists across China, said Ms. Daily, who praised the “big-data” approach to tracking the quality of China’s ecosystems.

“The whole world is waking up to the need to invest in natural capital as the basis for green growth,” she said.

Reforestation was one particular bright spot, she said. Under the country’s founding father, Mao Zedong, China razed acres of forests to fuel steel-smelting furnaces. To reverse the trend–and combat creeping desertification in the country’s north — the country embarked on a project in 1978 to build a “Great Green Wall” of trees. Today, authorities say that 22% of the country is covered by forest, up 1.3 percentage points compared with 2008.

The authors note that the study has limits. While China has reported improving levels of air quality in the past year, urban residents still choke under regular “airpocalypses.” The majority of Chinese cities endure levels of smog that exceed both Chinese and World Health Organization health standards.

“You can plant trees till the end of time,” says Ms. Daily. “But they’ll never be enough to clean up the air.”

Source: Study Finds China’s Ecosystems Have Become Healthier – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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09/06/2015

China’s greenhouse gases could peak early, easing climate fears | Reuters

China’s greenhouse gas emissions could peak by 2025, five years earlier than indicated by Beijing, a development that could help limit the mounting risks of global warming, a study by the London School of Economics (LSE) showed on Monday.

A coal-burning power station can be seen behind migrant workers as they walk carrying their shovels on the construction site of a water canal, being built in a dried-up river bed located on the outskirts of Beijing October 22, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray

The report, more optimistic about curbing the use of fossil fuels than a Chinese industry forecast on Monday, noted that China’s “coal consumption fell in 2014, and fell further in the first quarter of 2015”.

“China’s greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to peak as late as 2030 – the upper limit set by President Xi Jinping in November 2014 – and are much more likely to peak by 2025,” the report said.

“They could peak even earlier than that,” write the authors Fergus Green and Nicholas Stern, both from the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy.

China, the top emitter of greenhouse gases – that are linked to rising ocean levels, heat waves and downpours – said last year its emissions would peak “around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early”.

Wang Zhixuan, secretary general of the China Electricity Council, predicted in a research report on Monday that China’s emissions from the power sector would keep rising to 2030, spurred by lower prices of coal than natural gas.

The industrial association projected that coal-fired power capacity would rise next decade, to 1,450 gigawatts in 2030 from 1,100 in 2020.

The LSE authors estimated that China’s overall emissions could peak at the equivalent of between 12.5 and 14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2025, up from about 10 billion around 2012.

That earlier-than-expected high point would help the world get on track for limiting warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, they wrote, as long as China introduced sweeping reforms from cities to public transport.

Group of Seven leaders were meeting in Germany on Monday to discuss issues including climate change and how to achieve the 2C target, which many experts say is fast slipping out of reach.

And senior negotiators from almost 200 governments are meeting from June 1-11 in the German city of Bonn to work on a U.N. deal due in Paris in December to limit temperatures.

via China’s greenhouse gases could peak early, easing climate fears | Reuters.

26/05/2015

Coal-fired plants in Beijing on way out with new ban|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

Beijing will ban new coal-fired thermal power plants after the four existing ones are expected to be replaced by gas-fired plants by 2017, according to the municipal economic planner.

The replacement is being made in an attempt to reduce coal consumption to achieve better air quality.

“The closure of the coal-fired power plants will greatly improve air quality, considering that 22 percent of air pollutants are from coal consumption,” said Zhang Wangcai, deputy director of the Beijing Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Bureau.

Two gas-fired thermal power plants have been operating since October and have reduced coal consumption by 3.95 metric tons annually, he said.

Beijing has also restricted coal consumption by companies and households for heating in the past two years by supplying them with gas or other cleaner fuels instead.

“By the end of this year, we will reduce coal consumption by 8 million tons,” Zhang said, adding that a reduction of 7.1 million tons has already been achieved.

Li Xiang, deputy head of atmospheric environment management at the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said the reduction of coal consumption at the two power plants has been a major reason for the better air quality in the capital in the first four months of this year.

She said people in the capital have seen a distinct improvement in air quality in the first four months, during which there were 57 days when the quality was better than the national standard – eight days more than during the same period last year.

The concentration of PM2.5 – air particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter that can penetrate the lungs and harm health – has been lowered by 19 percent and the number of days with serious pollution reduced by 42 percent year-on-year.

On Thursday, authorities launched efforts to reduce air pollution in support of the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Zhang said the government will make further efforts to reduce emissions of air pollutants, including restricting coal consumption as planned, which will further improve air quality.

In addition to the two thermal power plants already operating, another will start working in July and a fourth will be ready to operate in November next year, he said.

By 2017, Beijing will have all its power generated by clean-energy gas, and coal consumption will be cut by 9.2 million tons annually – the equivalent amount used for the four coal-burning thermal power plants.

Gas consumption will increase to 24 billion cubic meters in 2017, of which 98 percent will be supplied through a variety of channels including foreign countries, Zhang said, adding that Beijing consumed 11.3 billion cubic meters of gas last year.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection released the list of air quality in April in the 74 major cities on Monday.

In April, seven of the 10 cities with the worst air pollution were in Hebei province, but the region of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province has witnessed a clear improvement in air quality, said Luo Yi, head of the ministry’s Environmental Supervision Bureau.

The PM2.5 concentration in the region has been reduced on average by 18.3 percent year-on-year and was 16.3 percent lower in April than in March, he said.

via Coal-fired plants in Beijing on way out with new ban|Society|chinadaily.com.cn.

04/03/2015

China hopes novice environment chief will be breath of fresh air | Reuters

One year after “declaring war” on pollution, China has appointed an inexperienced outsider as its new environment minister tasked with breathing life into a massive clean-up campaign that even optimists say will take decades to complete.

A woman covers her nose and mouth with her scarf amid heavy haze, as she rides a bicycle at the Pudong financial area in Shanghai, February 12, 2015.  REUTERS/Aly Song

Beijing has vowed to reverse the damage done to its skies, rivers and soil during China’s three-decade dash for growth, putting its under-resourced environment ministry under pressure to deliver results.

Leading that drive will be Chen Jining, 51, an environmental scientist and president of China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, who was appointed the country’s Minister of Environmental Protection on Friday.

As China’s annual parliament opens this week, Chen will need to show an increasingly angry public that the environment remains one of the top priorities, while reassuring thousands of regional delegates that there is still room for economic growth.

via China hopes novice environment chief will be breath of fresh air | Reuters.

07/12/2014

India plans 5-fold increase in clean energy – Businessweek

India said Friday it was optimistic the world would reach an agreement to curb climate change, but said its actions would be focused on boosting its renewable power capacity five-fold rather than on cutting carbon emissions.

With hundreds of millions still mired in poverty and without access to electricity, India cannot afford to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the expense of economic growth, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said before leaving this weekend for U.N. climate talks in Lima, Peru.

“Our growth cannot be compromised,” Javadekar said. “Poverty needs to be eradicated immediately. Poor people have aspirations. We must fulfill them. We must give them energy access. We cannot and nobody can question on this.”

He said he was optimistic industrialized nations would agree to shoulder more of the burden to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, given that they had been polluting with fossil fuels for decades before developing nations.

“That is the just regime,” he said.

The recent U.S.-China pact announcing new targets for fossil fuel use marked a positive step toward establishing this sort of equality, he said. In that pact, the U.S. said it would aim to bring down its per-capita emissions from about 20 tons while allowing China to raise its 8-9 tons per capita so that both reach a level of about 12 tons by 2030.

“They have accepted the differentiated responsibility and the need of time for growth,” Javadekar said.

India had already pledged to reduce its emissions intensity — how much carbon dioxide it produces divided by its GDP — rather than promising to cut overall emissions. However, Indian officials and scientists say it could easily go beyond the target set in 2009 of cutting emissions intensity by 20-25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

India’s preference for the per-capita emissions calculation also ignores the fact that around 400 million Indians still have no access to electricity at all, while hundreds of millions more are lucky to get a couple of hours a day. Experts worry that as India’s population continues to grow beyond 1.2 billion and more people become wealthy, its share of global emissions will skyrocket.

via India plans 5-fold increase in clean energy – Businessweek.

16/07/2014

Hope floats for Delhi’s e-rickshaws after minister’s backing – India Insight

The office of the New Arcana India e-rickshaw company is not easy to find. It is in a nondescript building nestled among other nondescript buildings in West Subhash Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood of New Delhi.

If enthusiasm showed up on a map, it would be hard to miss the place. Inside on a recent Thursday, a meeting of Delhi’s Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association was in session. Steaming cups of tea were being handed out to members, mostly manufacturers of battery-operated rickshaws.

There are an estimated 100,000 such “e-rickshaws” working Delhi’s streets. Introduced in 2010 and operated by unlicensed drivers, they are a less environmentally harmful and cheap way to get around the city compared to traditional gas-powered autorickshaws and cars that are too expensive for many people to buy. They’re also easier on the operators than pulling a traditional rickshaw or riding a bicycle taxi. But transportation officials nearly made driving e-rickshaws illegal earlier this year in a bid to curb nightmarish traffic congestion and reckless driving.

via India Insight.

15/07/2014

Apple Manufacturer Foxconn Goes Green in China’s Guizhou – Businessweek

Guizhou may be one of China’s poorest and least developed provinces. But the flip side is an environment so pristine that President Xi Jinping recently joked its air should be bottled.

Terraced fields of rice paddies are farmed on June 4, 2013, in Jinping county, Guizhou province, China

Now, Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group (2317:TT), the world’s largest consumer electronics producer, with more than a million employees working in 30-some industrial parks across China, has set its sights on backward but beautiful Guizhou.

The maker of Apple’s (AAPL) iPad and iPhone and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) servers is building an industrial park in China’s southwest, seemingly worlds away from its massive and gritty Shenzhen manufacturing base, that aims to be state of the art in energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. Set among karst hills on the outskirts of Guiyang, the provincial capital, the 500-acre park will keep about 70 percent of the natural vegetation undisturbed.

via Apple Manufacturer Foxconn Goes Green in China’s Guizhou – Businessweek.

17/06/2014

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.

16/04/2014

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

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’ – NYTimes.com – NYTimes.com.

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31/01/2014

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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