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China Environmental News Alert

November 28th – December 10th

Beijing Considers Reporting PM 2.5 Data to Public

The Chinese government is considering reporting PM2.5 pollution data to the public after it received over 1500 requests from the public for publication of such data. PM2.5 particles, which are small enough to cause lung damage and other health problems, also causes economic damage to the country. Last week, several hundred flights to Beijing’s Capital Airport, the world’s second busiest airport, were canceled. According to some environmental experts, if PM2.5 were the standard taken into account for air quality, over 80% of Chinese cities would have unsatisfactory air quality. In addition to PM2.5, the agency is also considering stricter standards for some pollutants it already measures, including PM10 and nitrogen oxide. 

Purchase of Organic Food Soaring in China

China Daily (December 12th, 2011)

In the wake of several food safety scandals, wealthier and more educated Chinese consumers are increasingly buying organic food. The organic retailer Lohao City said that its sales of organic food have increased by 30 percent this year. Reflecting this trend, the amount of companies obtaining certification from the China Organic Food Certification Center increased by 18 percent from 2009 to 2010. Despite the increase in purchasing and certification of companies, some consumers remain unconvinced that the organic label reflects the quality of the product. According to Chinese news reports, organic food labels and certificates are readily available, leading some consumers to believe that organic food is simply non-organic food with a special label.

China’s Discovery of Shale Gas a Boon to Energy Supply

Boston Globe (December 8th, 2011)

PetroChina announced Friday that it has discovered twenty separate shale gas reserves in the western province of Sichuan, all with the capability of producing more than 10,000 cubic meters of gas per day. Energy observers believe that the discovery of the reserves will allow China to curb its import of natural gas, which appeared set to soar before the discovery. In the United States, the drilling of shale gas has allowed the country to explore the option of exporting natural gas to Asia and other parts of the world. Environmental costs of drilling, which involves blasting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground, has led some experts to condemn the use of shale gas reserves. Those critics contend that the chemicals used in the shale gas drilling process, know as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are carcinogens that threaten drinking water supplies.

Number of Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturers Set to Shrink

Bloomberg (November 29th 2011)

The number of Chinese solar panel manufacturers will decrease from 330 to 15 manufacturers within five years, according to a research group at the nation’s top economic planning agency. The expected decrease in manufacturers comes as a result of Chinese companies’ inability to sell their existing inventory of solar panels. Over the past five years, the number of solar panel manufacturers has soared as Europe and other nations have launched subsidy programs for solar energy. As those subsidy programs have been phased out, the cost of solar energy has plummeted, leading to lower margins for most Chinese solar manufacturers, including Suntech and LDK, two of the world’s largest solar companies.

China and Bill Gates in Discussions of New Nuclear Reactor

Guardian (December 7th, 2011)

While speaking at the China Ministry of Science and Technology, Bill Gates discussed the possibility of developing a new kind of nuclear reactor that uses depleted uranium. Gates said the reactor would be low waste, low-cost and very safe. The reactors would be able to simulate tidal waves and earthquakes, which would “take safety to a new level,” Gates said. The co-founder of Microsoft predicted it might take up to a billion dollars of investment over the course of five years to develop the technology, which he hoped would help China increase its output of clean energy.

China Agrees to Enter Climate Pact by 2020

Wall Street Journal (December 11th, 2011)

China, India and the United States agreed in Durban last week to enter into a legally binding climate deal by 2020. The countries, which are the three largest emitters of carbon dioxide worldwide, will develop a climate plan by 2015 in order to have a framework in place in 2020. The deal came after China and India nearly derailed the process by refusing to accept a “legal instrument.” China derailed the Copenhagen conference in 2009 by declining to accept a legally binding deal for 2013. The United States has said it will not accept legally binding targets until China and India also agree to make cuts in emissions. The latest deal between the three countries suggests that the climate deal may be able to pass through Congress, unlike previous bills.

China to Conduct First Panda Census in Ten Years

Los Angeles Times (December 7th, 2011)

Over the next year, China will conduct its first count of wild pandas in ten years, according to researchers with China’s Forestry Ministry. The current number of pandas remains somewhat of a mystery because they live deep in the forests of mountains in Shaanxi, Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Over 100 people will conduct the count throughout more than 12,000 square miles of treacherous mountain passes in the provinces. The last time the census was conducted, between 2000 and 2001, researchers found nearly 1,600 pandas in the wild. Scientists are want to know how the last ten years of development of railroads and highways have affected the population of the pandas, which suffer from inbreeding and loss of habitat.

China to Use Dogs to Sniff Out Illegal Wildlife Shipments

World Wildlife Federation (December 6th, 2011)

China’s General Administration of Customs of China recently organized a meeting to discuss how to use dogs to detect illegal shipments of wildlife goods. The meeting’s organizers expect all of China’s major ports to be equipped with the dogs. Beijing’s Drug Detector Dog Training Center is training the first wildlife-detecting dog, which will be deployed soon. Other countries that use dogs to control wildlife shipments include Germany, Kenya and Thailand. Rare wildlife products, including elephant ivory and agarwood, have been increasingly found in China’s ports, causing authorities to look for new methods to control the wildlife trade.

China’s Green Energy Revolution to Continue

Reuters (December 6th, 2011)

China plans to install the equivalent of 180 nuclear power reactors in solar and wind power capacity by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency. By that year, the country will have added 180 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity, equal to the total world capacity added during the past 40 years. From 2009 to 2035, China’s energy use will grow by an annual rate of 4 percent, pushing the country’s total energy use to 9,000 terrawatts. Between 2009 and 2035, China will account for one third of global energy demand growth.

(CENA prepared by Chris Page)

* 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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