Cleaner air coming to China?

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Curbing risks together - voluntary and coordinated targets

On China's plan to deal with the pollution crisis, the OECD reports: "China has formalised efforts to mitigate climate change in recent five-year plans. For example, the 12th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (2011-15), expressed the need to pursue low-carbon development. It established a binding target of a 17% decrease in CO2 emissions per unit of GDP from 2010 levels by the end of 2015. The plan includes several policy measures, such as gradually establishing carbon emissions trading systems (ETSs). China’s State Council has also announced that annual coal consumption will be capped at below 4.2 billion tonnes until 2020 (Xinhuanet, 2014)."

Eduardo Porter: Climate Deal Badly Needs a Big Stick

Lawrence MacDonald and Jing Cao, CGD: The Sudden Rise of Carbon Taxes, 2010–2030

Consumption and oversight

Bloomberg: Beijing Plans to Require Car Buyers to Secure Parking Space

BBC: China struggles to contain the environmental damage of its rapid growth - ""The real concern is consumer behaviour. People want a modern, comfortable way of life…a big car, a large apartment, air-conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter. All of this is new in China. It's not wrong but it's so vast and so sudden. We are just not prepared for the consumption of energy and natural resources," Prof Pan says."

Caixin: China 'to Hold Officials Accountable for Life for Environmental Problems' - "NDRC official says local leaders who fail to stop water and soil pollution cannot be promoted or hold other jobs ... Zhang said that several central government agencies including the NDRC are also working on establishing specific punishments for local officials whose work leads to environmental damage. These punishments will range from warnings to handing cases to prosecutors so criminal charges can be pursued, he said."

SCMP: Crackdown on corruption at Chinese environmental risk assessment agencies - "Sixty-three agencies censured for malpractice after graft-busters criticise 'flawed' system in which friends of officials intervened in reviews."

Production will have to change

Bloomberg: "China’s “traditional, extensive way of seeking growth has been proved unsustainable,” warned Premier Li Keqiang during a speech in Tianjin in September. “We will eliminate overcapacity,” he told an audience of multinational and Chinese company executives.""

Reuters: China's Hebei to force firms to buy emission permits from 2016 - "Starting in 2016, steelmakers, power suppliers and manufacturers of cement and glass will be forced to pay for permits to cover the amount of pollution they emit, and the government will set the amount of permits required by other industries by this year, the newspaper said. China has already rolled out pilot emission permit markets in 11 provinces, covering air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as well as water pollution indicators such as chemical oxygen demand and ammonia."

Hal Harvey, Paulson Institute: Top Ten Principles for Clean Air in China

Establish a sound local air quality management structure: Every region needs an unambiguous clean air authority. Large regions covering several cities (e.g. Jing-Jin-Ji region) should have a unified authority with the ability to set standards, issue permits, and enforce reductions; Ensure sufficient human and financial resources: Public and private expenditures on pollution control must be sufficient to achieve the ultimate objective of clean and healthy air. This will require increased budgets, better planning and analysis, and more high-quality inspectors. Proper design of enforcement programs can minimize the chance of evasion or corruption;
The Economist: Could China, known as a land of coal and smog, be a wind power example for other countries? "Wind power has tripled its share of China’s electricity generation since 2010, to 3% of the total. If that still seems puny, it is enough to power 110m Chinese homes. "

BBC: China ‘deserves more credit’ for renewable energy effort

The Economist: China gets a larger share of its energy from renewables than America does

FT: Early leaders in wind and solar equipment faced overcapacity

April, 2015; Xinhuanet: "Starting from next year, all vehicles in the 11 provinces and municipalities of eastern China should use fuels, including gasoline and diesel, that adhere to China's leading '5th-phase' standards, with sulphur content within 10 ppm (parts per million), starting from next year."

March, 2015; Xinhuanet: Ministry plans five-year air pollution control project

Feb. 2015; FT: Chinese demand fuels renewables sector turnround

Public health and conservation efforts

Yiqin Fu: China’s National Conversation on Pollution Has Finally Begun - "In a rare move for Chinese journalists, Chai also criticized China’s two most powerful state-owned oil companies for resisting tougher fuel standards. ... “Shouldn’t Sinopec, a giant state-owned enterprise with more than $400 billion in revenue last year, take some social responsibility?” Chai asked."

Caixin: Residents of Beijing Community Renew Protest against Waste Incineration Plant

Pew Research: Environmental Concerns on the Rise in China -- " About four-in-ten (38%) consider the safety of food a very big problem, a 26 percentage point increase since 2008."

WSJ: China War on Pollution Benefits From Economic Slowdown

A "war against pollution" declared by China's leaders is getting a boost from the slowing economy as the government forces bloated industries like steel, cement and glassmaking to slim down. The results of cuts in overcapacity are already visible in notoriously smoggy Beijing. Official air-pollution data released by China's government and monitoring by the U.S. embassy show levels of fine-particulate matter damaging to human health--known as PM2.5--fell more than 15% in the capital in the first half of 2015, compared with a year earlier.

The Economist: Officials increasingly ask people a once taboo question: what they think

Greater public involvement, including through polling, has had some effect on policy. Anthony Saich of Harvard University notes that in successive polls, conducted on his behalf by Horizon since 2003, the government’s failure to tackle corruption effectively has consistently featured among respondents’ main concerns. Mr Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign appears, at least partly, to be a response to such anxieties. Last year’s declaration of a “war on pollution” by Li Keqiang similarly had public opinion in mind.

Opinion polls particularly affect policy at a local level, Mr Saich reckons. His surveys show that public satisfaction with local government is often lower than it is with the performance of central government.

NYT: With U.S. as a Model, China Envisions Network of National Parks

The Economist: The capital leads the way in banning smoking in public places - "About 300m Chinese, or one in four, smoke every day. This proportion has remained steady in recent years"

PC World: Microsoft predicts China's air pollution with data analysis - The company has launched an air quality mobile app for users in China

Official initiatives

2015; Integrated Reform Plan for Promoting Ecological Progress from the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council; full text

2015; Establishing China's Green Financial System; The People's Bank of China

2013; Ministry of Environmental Protection: The State Council Issues Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution Introducing Ten Measures to Improve Air Quality

Singles' Day in China

Fascinating data from China Bloomberg: "Alibaba sold $5 billion in merchandise during the first 90 minutes of the day, putting it on track to top...

Paris Climate conference: setting expectations

A roundup of links in advance of COP21: CarbonBrief: Tracking country climate pledges OECD: Targets and goals for climate change mitigation The European Union’s international...