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June 7th, 2008:

Experts Join Environmental Forum

7th June 2008 – SCMP

Two mainland experts took part in a World Environment Day forum at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on Thursday. On the theme “Sustainability – A leadership role for higher education”, speakers included Pan Jiahua, deputy director of the Research Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Wang Canfa, director of the Centre for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims at China University of Political Science and Law. Professor Wang, a Time magazine “Hero for the Planet”, discussed mainland environmental laws.

Rally Targets Plan To Ban Idling Engines

Celine Sun – Updated on Jun 07, 2008 – SCMP

Drivers of more than 50 taxis, minibuses, tour buses and trucks hit the streets in Central and Wan Chai yesterday to protest against the proposed ban on stationary vehicles keeping their engines running.

The drivers said the government bill, meant to cut roadside pollution, would produce more exhaust and affect their businesses by forcing them to turn off their vehicles’ air conditioning.

The protesting drivers, organised by the Motor Transport Workers General Union, gathered around Pier 3 in Central, switching their engines on and off in unison to highlight the fumes discharged from the vehicles.

Union spokesman To Sun-tong said the emissions generated within seconds of a vehicle being started were often several times more than those produced by a running engine.

“The government asks drivers to switch off their engines for all waits longer than a minute,” he said. “It’s not saving the environment but creating more pollutants.”

Mr To, a taxi driver, said the ban would also see taxis and tour buses lose customers.

“On summer days, the temperature inside a vehicle will get to 40 degrees Celsius within three or four minutes with the engine turned off,” he said.

“It would be easy for the passengers to catch a cold in adapting to a big difference in temperature.

“Anyway, do you think people would like to get into such a hot cab?” he asked.

In a paper submitted by the Environmental Protection Department to the Legislative Council last month, the government said 76.8 per cent of the 1,349 people polled in a survey agreed to a law requiring idling engines to be turned off.

However, the union said the opinions of 5,000 drivers, handed to the authorities in March, were not reflected at all in the government’s report to Legco.

Late in the afternoon, some of the vehicles were driven from Central to Revenue Tower in Wan Chai and a protest letter submitted to the Environmental Protection Department, urging the government to hold more talks with the transport sector.

Central Bank Emissions Trading

Central bank outlines tentative scheme for emissions trading

Reuters in Beijing – Updated on Jun 07, 2008

The People’s Bank of China has drawn up a tentative outline for a domestic emissions-trading scheme that could cover everything from greenhouse gases to water pollutants, and speed the country’s push for greener growth.

The move by the central bank is the first sign that Beijing is seriously considering a comprehensive national strategy to force companies either to control their pollution or pay for their excess, as it struggles to meet its own tough environmental goals.

A quota scheme would also help the country keep track of greenhouse gases at a time when it is coming under international pressure over its rising carbon dioxide output, and could pave the way for eventually joining an international system.

The plan, along with key emissions-trading concepts, was laid out at a seminar for top officials, including the central bank’s deputy governor, Yi Gang , and a deputy general manager of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Xie Ping.

“Our country already has the basic conditions necessary for instituting an emissions quota and trading system,” a document presented at the seminar said.

The seminar also explored the mainland’s previous flirtations with the sector. At least 10 cities have tried some kind of experimental pollution-permit and trade system, and both Beijing and Tianjin are interested in setting up emission exchanges.

The central government has never previously offered more than vague statements of support, but now the mainland’s environmental woes are taking a rising economic and diplomatic toll.

The mainland is widely thought to have overtaken the United States as top emitter last year – although per person it produces far less greenhouse gas than developed countries – and is under pressure to speed up efforts to control emissions.

And while a cap and trade system could cover a variety of pollutants, including acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide, which is a major problem for the mainland, extensive data on climate change in one presentation suggested greenhouse gases would be one target.

Blind Eye To Air Pollution

7th June 2008 – SCMP

Air pollution has long been a problem in developed cities. We know the problem exists but we choose to turn a blind eye to it. Is it that we are incapable of making a change, or are we indifferent to our common property?

We, as citizens, always claim that government should do something, but have we ever thought of our own social duty? I am concerned about the attitudes of all Hong Kong people. We simply don’t try to get involved in cleaning up our cities, and ask others to do our part. So often we see luxurious shops turn on their lights at midnight without anyone inside. So often we see our friends suffer from respiratory diseases. Why can’t we do something to alleviate the problem?

I sincerely hope that all of us can be more environmentally friendly to our lovely city. Take more public transport instead of driving private cars or taking taxis. Turn on fans instead of air con when it is not that hot. There are lots of things we can do.

Maureen Cheung, Lam Tin

Hutton Warns West Over Environment

Press Association – Saturday June 7 2008

A Government minister is to warn the West not to “demonise” Asian countries on environmental standards but to work closely with them to tackle climate change.

Business Secretary John Hutton will tell business leaders in Hong Kong that it was important to work constructively with the governments of China, India and South Korea.

On the eve of a meeting of G8 energy ministers in Japan, Mr Hutton will say: “How we secure cheap, reliable, clean energy will be centre stage of this G8 meeting and, as the world tries to negotiate a post-Kyoto deal on climate change, we must strongly resist the temptation to demonise the new Asia economies.

“Those who think the answer to dealing with the challenges of climate change is to tell the people of China or India to sacrifice the sort of living standards that we have enjoyed for so long are deeply misguided.

“It is the right of every person and every nation to strive for a better way of life.

“Climate change is a global problem and there can be no gain in alienating the world’s developing economies as we fight to tackle it.

“We must work together to have a real impact and develop the low carbon technologies of the future that will bring benefits to all our economies and to the planet.

“We in the West must shoulder the burden of tackling climate change in equal measure to the benefit we derived from the industrial revolution over the past 150 years.

“That is why at this week’s G8 the UK will encourage all members to invest in and develop cleaner forms of energy production.”

Mr Hutton, who is on the second leg of a trade trip to Vietnam and China, said he had been impressed by the action already being taken to reduce the impact of pollution in the region’s cities, adding: “We do not need to lecture on the importance of protecting the environment.”