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China Environmental News Alert

October 24 – October 31


Disposable Chopsticks Strip Asian Forests

New York Times (October 24, 2011)

Each year, the equivalent of 3.8 million trees go into the manufacture of about 57 billion disposable pairs of chopsticks in China, according to statistics from that nation’s national forest bureau.  Chopsticks add to a plague of regional deforestation. According to a 2008 United Nations report, 10,800 square miles of Asian forest are disappearing each year, a trend that must be arrested to fight climate change, given the vital role trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide.  But disposable chopsticks pose risks of their own for consumers and the environment.  While production standards exist in China, supervision is sometimes nonexistent, especially in small factories. Industrial-grade sulfur, paraffin, hydrogen peroxide and insect repellent are among the harmful chemicals that Chinese media investigations have exposed during production.


China Takes a Loss to Get Ahead in the Business of Fresh Water

New York Times (October 25, 2011)

The desalination industry has grown in cities near Beijing even though desalted water costs twice as much to produce as it sells for.  Nevertheless, the owner of the complex, a government-run conglomerate called S.D.I.C., is moving to quadruple the plant’s desalinating capacity, making it China’s largest.  The government has set its mind on becoming a force in the budding environment-related industry of supplying the world with fresh water.  China’s latest five-year plan for the sector is expected to order the establishment of a national desalination industry  The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top-level state planning agency, is drafting plans to give preferential treatment to domestic companies that build desalting equipment or patent desalting technologies.  The government’s plans could mean an investment of as much as 200 billion renminbi, or about $31 billion, by state-owned companies, government agencies and private partners.


China environment minister says nuclear safety risks climbing

Reuters (October 26, 2011)

China is facing increasing safety risks from its nuclear power plants as existing facilities age and a large number of new reactors go into operation, according to the country’s environmental minister Zhou Shengxian.  Zhou told legislators that the scale and pace of nuclear construction had accelerated, a larger range of technologies had been introduced, and potential sources of radiation had become more widespread, making it harder to monitor safety.  Experts have expressed concern about the use of old second-generation reactor designs, a lack of qualified safety and operational staff, and construction of nuclear plants in earthquake and flood-prone regions in the country’s interior.


China closes 7,000 enterprises for pollution violations in five years: white paper

Xinhua (October 27, 2011)

Chinese authorities have investigated over 80,000 cases of violation of environmental protection laws, and closed 7,293 offending enterprises over the past five years, according to a white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council.  The state has promulgated the Environmental Protection Law, which lays down the basic principle of coordinated development of economic construction, social development and environmental protection, and dictates that governments at all levels, all organizations and individuals have the right and duty to protect the environment.


Tears for the ‘river pig’

China Daily (October 27, 2011)

Increasing pollution of the Yangtze River and the threat to the river’s finless porpoise population is also a warning for a third of the nation’s population that depends on those waters.  Scientists estimate that the finless porpoise, a freshwater dolphin which has lived in the Yangtze River and adjacent lakes for over 20 million years, will become extinct within 15 years.  Between 1991 and 2006, their numbers had dropped from approximately 2,700 to between 1,200 and 1,400.  Now, scientists estimate the number of Yangtze finless porpoises is around 1,000 (there are more giant pandas), and the number is decreasing at the rate of 5 percent every year.  Besides the extreme weather, human activities are a crucial reason for the deterioration of the porpoise’s natural habitat.


Beijing enhance environment for new energy cars

China Daily (October 28, 2011)

Beijing plans to build the best environment for the development of new energy vehicles in China, according to a statement by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology.  From 2011 to 2015, Beijing will push forward the research and industrialization of battery-powered electric vehicles and these vehicles’ key components, as well as hybrid cars.  The city will also assist self-owned brands in constructing production lines for electric automobiles and speeding up the localization of key technologies.  In order to create the best social environment for new energy cars in China, Beijing will also issue preferential policies to encourage the purchase, rental and use of new energy cars.


China introduces plan on groundwater pollution control

China Daily (October 29, 2011)

China has introduced the country’s first national plan on groundwater pollution control, urging a combination of legal, economic, technological and administrative measures for groundwater protection.  China will invest a total of 34.66 billion yuan ($5.48 billion) on the prevention and treatment of pollution in the country’s groundwater in 2011-2020, according to the plan.  Under the plan, China will form a general understanding of the country’s groundwater pollution situation and preliminarily bring the sources of groundwater pollution under control by 2015.  Furthermore, the country aims to fully monitor the typical sources of groundwater pollution and to make the safety of essential underground drinking water sources well protected by 2020.


Mainland to invest up to US$300m in biofuels

South China Morning Post (October 29, 2011)

China’s aviation industry is expected to inject as much as US$300 million over the next four years to expand its supply of biofuels.  Fuel suppliers, airlines and the Chinese government are expected to share the costs of the project.  Air China successfully completed its first two-hour test flight around Beijing using a biofuel partially produced from jatropha seeds.  Airlines around the world are scrambling to find cleaner and more sustainable fuels to replace fossil fuels in a bid to fight global warming, as well as stricter emission caps.


China International Forum on Climate Change opens

China Daily (October 31, 2011)

The 2011 China International Forum on Climate Change opened in Beijing on Sunday to discuss ways to balance economic and environmental priorities, develop green industry and construct low-carbon cities.  Delegates are expected to suggest new ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions and develop carbon-trading markets in the hope of providing insights for next month’s climate talks in Durban, South Africa.  China has maintained that countries should bear “common but differentiated responsibilities” in climate change, with developed countries taking most of the responsibility for reducing carbon emissions blamed for global warming.  However, Liu Yanhua, a counselor of the State Council and also the former Vice Minister of Science and Technology, said that China in particular needs to speed up upgrading its low-carbon industries with technological innovation.


Companies told: Want gold? Go green

China Daily (October 31, 2011)

The China Sustainability Award, jointly launched by and A.T. Kearney, has given a lot of pressure and guidance for companies to operate in a sustainable way in China.  The award aims to evaluate the sustainability performance of companies based in China, to identify and award the best performers in a sustainability context and to identify and share best practices.  More and more enterprises have shifted from using “being green” as a publicity means, to actually using it as a guidance to “produce more gold”, according to the Companies now invest more money and human resources on research and development (R&D) and process management to speed up their transformation to “greener” ones.


(CENA prepared by Christina Whang)


* 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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