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June, 2009:

Cyclists Transformed Into Pollution Sensors

Sky News

Pedestrians and cyclists in urban areas are being transformed into mobile pollution sensors as part of a Government-backed scheme to monitor air quality.

Led by a team at Imperial College London, researchers will trial three new types of sensors on people, vehicles and traffic islands to measure emissions and noise pollution.

The three-year Mobile Environmental Sensing System Across Grid Environments (MESSAGE) initiative will receive data from 100 sensors in South Kensington, Leicester, Gateshead and Cambridge to test how they operate in different types of location.
The new technology will provide unprecedented detail about pollution hotspots.

Professor John Polak said: “There is a lot that we do not know about air quality in our cities and towns because the current generation of large stationary sensors don’t provide enough information.

“We envisage a future where hundreds and thousands of mobile sensors are deployed across the country, to improve the way we monitor, measure and manage pollution in our urban areas.”

The sensors will measure up to five different traffic pollutants simultaneously, including harmful nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides.

New EU laws mean the Government must reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, which comes largely from traffic, while scientists are particularly concerned by PM10 pollution.

PM10s are the minute sooty particles emitted by diesel engines which can lead to asthma, heart disease and other respiratory problems.

In Britain alone, experts say PM10 pollution leads to the premature deaths of between 12,000 and 24,000 people a year.
The trials begin in the same week as the Met Office issued its first ‘heat health warning’ of 2009.

Experts are concerned the high temperatures expected this week, combined with pollution levels in urban areas, could aggravate respiratory problems.

A Department of Health spokesman warned: “People with respiratory problems should stay inside during the hottest part of the day.”

The sensors attached to pedestrians and cyclists are small enough to fit into a pocket and can detect car pollutants and other contaminants including carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke.

They will transmit the data back via the wearer’s mobile phone.

The scientists will also model pollution clouds in 3D, by attaching sensors to traffic lights and street lamps to try to work out whether poor traffic signalling, for example, is causing air quality to deteriorate.

The air quality measurements and the location of each mobile sensor will be tracked on Google maps.

China Coal City’s Tycoons Splurge on Antiques as Dealers Swoop

Le-Min Lim, Bloomberg – June 26

Few people gave Zhao Xin a second look when he strolled into the biggest antique show in China’s coal city of Taiyuan, Shanxi, wearing straw-trimmed canvas shoes, black polyester-mix clothes, and a tobacco-stained grin.

That changed when he went to a booth run by Hong Kong dealer Raymond Chak. Pointing at Chinese gilt-bronze Buddha statues, he said, “Show me this, that, and that.” Ten minutes later, Zhao had bought about eight antiques for nearly 1.5 million yuan ($220,000). In the next hour, he spent at least another 2 million yuan on paintings, ceramics and other artworks at other booths, as bystanders looked on.

Zhao is one of the world’s biggest buyers of Chinese antiques, say art dealers like Shanghai-based Lu Feifei. He also belongs to a group of tycoons in China’s top coal-producing province of Shanxi, many of whom earned their wealth selling the fuel, and in recent years began paying top dollar for Chinese relics at auctions and galleries from Hong Kong to New York.

Reached on his mobile phone, Zhao simply said he was retired and wouldn’t say how he earned his money.

To court buyers in Shanxi — which has a reputation for being a cultural capital of sorts — about 50 of the world’s top names in Chinese antique sale flew from Hong Kong, London and the U.S. into Taiyuan to sell millions of dollars worth of ceramics, jade and snuff bottles. The city has an average per capita income of 15,230 yuan last year, and operates two flights a week to Hong Kong. Taiyuan is an hour by flight from Beijing.

Spotting Money

“In Shanxi, it’s hard to tell who the rich guys are,” said Ronald Chak, a nephew of Raymond who helps run one of Hong Kong antique dealership Chak’s Co. Ltd., which organized the Taiyuan fair. “You’d think some were ordinary folks and then you see them step into their Mercedes 500.”

“According to estimates from Artron, total global auction sales of both fine and decorative Chinese art in 2007 summed to approximately 2.3 billion euros,” said the European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) in a report published in March this year. About $500 million of items are auctioned by Christie’s International and Sotheby’s, based on company figures and estimates. The others are sold in galleries or in person.

Like diamonds, the portability of antiques make them more attractive than property or bulkier assets for buyers who have to relocate in a rush and frequently, said Stephen Vickers, chief executive of Hong Kong-based FTI International Risk Ltd. Owners could then convert them back into cash once they have settled in a new location.

Mainland Challenge

While Westerners still dominate the most-expensive segment of this market at auction, they are increasingly being challenged by buyers from mainland China, according to John Berwald, of New York-based dealership Berwald Oriental Art.

Christie’s says Americans are its biggest clients in this category of art, followed by mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers. While Shanxi buyers are new to the international art-trading scene compared with their Beijing and Shanghai peers, they are gaining a name as some of China’s fiercest bidders.

“They are a force to reckon with, no doubt about it,” said Kevin Ching, chief executive of Sotheby’s Asia, who attended the Taiyuan fair. On paper, Shanxi buyers formally accounted for just $4 million of Sotheby’s Chinese antiques at its Hong Kong auctions, though the actual figure is much larger because many bid through agents in the city, he said, declining to give specifics.

There are about 51,000 people in China who have 100 million yuan or more, according to Hurun’s latest China rich list, released in April. Of these, 1,050 are in Shanxi. The actual number of rich individuals in the province is probably more than twice the number on the list, said Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of Hurun Report, which compiles China’s rich list.

‘Hidden Wealth’

“There’s a lot of hidden wealth in Shanxi,” he said.

Zhao owns the best private collection of ceramics kept by Qing Dynasty Emperor Daoguang (reign: 1820-1850) and dealers consider him a very important antiques buyer, according to Lu.

At the fair, Zhao asked about a red-beaded bracelet Raymond Chak wore; Chak immediately rolled it off his hand and handed it over. Zhao wound the new purchase on his wrist and carried on his shopping spree.

“Come to the antiques fair now,” he said into his mobile phone. “Today is their last day and a perfect opportunity to rip off RaymondChak.”

His posse laughed, Chak wiped his forehead and chuckled dryly.

Investment Choice

“Zhao might not know which piece makes the best investment, but his aesthetics sense in antiques is probably better than even the dealers,” said Chak in an interview as Zhao shopped.

At first glance, there seems little about this northern province of 34 million people that hints at its wealth. Unlike coastal Shanghai or Guangdong, whose trade with the outside world created a class of traders and entrepreneurs, Shanxi is landlocked. In 2006, the per-capita income of its urban residents was 10,794 yuan, below the national average.

Still, Shanxi produces about 80 percent of China’s coal, the nation’s main source of fuel; it accounts for the biggest share of the province’s economy. As prices more than quintupled between 2002 and 2008, a class of new rich, dubbed “Coal Bosses” emerged in Shanxi.

Shanxi’s new rich have a reputation in China for brashness and ostentatious spending. In Taiyuan, taxi drivers recount stories of coal barons buying entire apartment blocks or Louis Vuitton bags by the dozens.

Buying Hummers

A coal baron of Xiaoyi City once bought 15 Hummers in one go, says state-run Jingji Cankao Bao. They also travel in groups to Beijing and Shanghai to buy property, state media say.

Even though coal’s value has nearly halved since its peak in August as growth slowed, many Shanxi tycoons are still putting their money in antiques, where the rarest items are fetching record prices as property prices tanked, said dealer Lu.

In May, property prices in 70 Chinese cities had their sixth straight month of decline, according to the Statistical Bureau.

At Christie’s Hong Kong sale last month, a pair of Qing Dynasty imperial gilt-bronze bells fetched HK$45.5 million, the priciest at auction.

“Antiques make better investments than most,” said Nie Zhihui, a collector who says he made his fortune selling coal to steel companies in the region. Nie, 40, wearing a buzz cut and black T-shirt, declined to say how much he’s worth.

Filmy Air

In Taiyuan, nylon flags advertising the fair flapped in the filmy air, which reduced visibility to about 300 meters. In alleys, vendors touted pyramid stacks of watermelons by the road; street-side stores flashed neon signs advertising noodles and medicine. In some empty lots, the rubble of demolished structures is covered by blue-and-red tarp sheets.

The widest road in Taiyuan, a city of 3.4 million people, is a thoroughfare, six lanes each way, built soon after the 1949 Communist Party came to power in China, called Yingze Jie, which means Road to Welcome Mao Zedong. Mao never came to Taiyuan.

At the antiques fair, some haggled in the open as dozens gathered to watch the commotion, while others negotiated behind partitions; when it came time to pay, one buyer reached into his bowling bag and pulled out bundles of red 100-yuan notes, the biggest denomination of the Chinese currency, another said he would wire-transfer the money. After paying, some just tucked the purchases in their bags and left.

The organizer, Chak’s Co., didn’t answer requests seeking attendance and sales figures.

Buddha Beads

Most of the booths reported strong sales. Hui Zengjiu, a Beijing-based dealer specializing in antique Buddha beads and enamels, said he had recouped the 50,000 yuan he paid for his 3 meter-by-3 meter booth. The booth of Priestley & Ferraro, with a store on London’s King Street, was seen selling some ceramics.

“A lot of China’s finest treasures are in the hands of Shanxi collectors,” said Ching.

None has found its way in the form of loans or donations to the Shanxi Museum, about 3 kilometers southwest of the World Trade Hotel, where the antiques fair is held.

Chen Fenxia, a Shanxi Museum spokeswoman, said she’s heard of art buying by the province’s tycoons.

Asked if Shanxi Museum, which gets its annual funding of 10 million yuan from the government, would accept loans or donations by tycoons, she said, “I imagine they bought the antiques only as investments.”

At the fair, Zhao turned and told an accompanying friend, Feng Buwu, “Find something you like and buy it. Be quick.”

Antiques dealers must be thinking the same.

A Clear Vision

SCMP – Jun 25, 2009

Hong Kong has better visibility during the summer because prevailing winds blow pollution away. Unfortunately, the thick smog will return later and much of the Pearl River Delta will be enveloped by the ugly yellow-brown haze once more.

With Hong Kong investment, the delta became one of the world’s busiest industrial hubs, so it should come as no surprise that air pollution has risen substantially over the past two decades. The task now is to clean it up quickly to protect the health of some 50 million people.

The loss of blue sky in the region has much to do with two pollutants – particulates and ozone. Particulates are derived from the burning of fossil fuels by vehicles, and in industrial processes and power generation; ozone is formed when other pollutants react in the presence of sunlight.

Complex chemical reactions are involved, which makes these two pollutants among the hardest to control.

We are not alone in facing this problem. Many cities and regions around the world are struggling to find solutions, too. It is therefore important to understand the specific regional conditions for us to devise directly relevant solutions. Moreover, the types and mix of pollutants change constantly as the industrial profile of the region alters.

For example, the change in the region’s fuel mix and quality will have an impact, as will the increasein the number of vehicles.

While Hong Kong has already done solid research on the nature of local emissions, and there have been publicly and privately funded studies on cross-border emissions, we are not yet carrying out the kind of inquiries that others do as a matter of course. Despite Hong Kong’s status as a developed city, the science necessary for policymaking remains patchy.

This is easy to correct but our environmental officials need to give priority to setting up the right structure and ensure continued funding. The government as a whole needs to focus on upgrading its ability to regulate.

For example, the United States set up “supersites” monitoring programmes more than a decade ago to conduct detailed and wide-ranging air pollution and health-related studies in various locations. This was done to inform policymakers about the cost and methods to control particulates. Supersites take into account more than just regular monitoring of air pollution, and include factors such as human exposure to pollution. The sites include areas with unique climate, emissions or population characteristics, for example. This way, regional aspects of pollution problems can be better understood and dealt with.

Between 2002 and 2005, Taiwan set up four supersites to gain a better understanding of the characteristics and amount of particulates in both the north and south of the island.

In the Pearl River Delta, there have been several supersite studies between 2004 and last year, and the results are being used for planning similar programmes in the rest of Guangdong province. This is all the more reason why Hong Kong needs to set up its own data-gathering programme as a way to collaborate with our regional neighbours.

As the mainland builds it regulatory system, Hong Kong must push ahead even faster to improve its ability to gather and evaluate data and consider strategies to control the problem.

Such research is cost effective: a few million dollars a year goes a long way, and authorities can call on universities to help. The results are critical to policymaking based on evidence. If there is no data, there is no science.

The expensive part is the measures to control the problem that are eventually rolled out by the government; the research is relatively cheap.

A quick look at what others are doing should help the Hong Kong government chart a course. With resources and talent on the ground, there is no reason not to push ahead.

Christine Loh Kung-wai is chief executive of the think-tank Civic Exchange.

Long term exposure to air pollution decreases life expectancy, UK report finds

Susan Mayor, 22 June 2009

1 London

Long term exposure to air pollutants is associated with increased mortality, warns a major UK report published this week, which has also defined the most useful measure of air pollution in developing strategies to reduce adverse effects on health.

The new report follows up a 2001 review that looked at the long term effects of exposure to air pollutants on health, itself based on two major US studies. That review said that a causal relationship with mortality was “more likely than not” and that the studies’ findings were applicable in the UK.

Research in the field has progressed rapidly since its earlier review, so the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants—an expert committee that advises the UK government—decided it needed to review the latest evidence, including a European cohort study.

“We are left with little doubt that long-term exposure to air pollutants has an effect on mortality and thus decreases life expectancy,” the committee warns in its report, and it explains that the new evidence has strengthened the association, particularly with particulates.

After reviewing a first draft of the report Michael Krzyzanowski, regional adviser on air quality to the World Health Organization and health head of the European Centre for Environment and Health, Bonn, said, “The estimates of burden of disease, based on the conclusions from this evidence, indicate very significant public health impacts and have important policy implications.”

The committee recommends PM2.5 (the mass per cubic metre of particles passing through the inlet of a size selective sampler with a transmission efficiency of 50% at an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 micrometres) as the best measure of particulate air pollution for quantitative assessment of the effects of policy interventions. Particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter are small enough to be deposited in the alveoli, particularly in high risk groups such as children and sick people.

The committee found that the relative risk of mortality from all causes rose by 6% with a 10 microgram per cubic metre increase in PM2.5. With the same increase in particulate matter, the risk of cardiopulmonary mortality rose by 9% and of lung cancer mortality by 8%.

Evidence for the possible effects of long term exposure to the common air pollutant gases—sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone—was less clear than that for particulate air pollution.

“In none of these cases [gases] have we been persuaded that the evidence base is yet sufficiently strong to warrant quantification,” the committee reported. “The problem is one of inadequate evidence rather than evidence for there being no effects. Better evidence might well lead us to change our views in this area.”

The committee is now working on a further report looking at the effects of exposure to air pollutants on morbidity.

Study: Beijing’s air worse than at past Olympics

TINI TRAN, AP – Jun 20, 2009

Beijing’s notoriously dirty air was cleaner during last summer’s Olympic games, but pollution levels were still much worse than at recent Olympics, despite a massive Chinese cleanup campaign, a new report said.

Athletes in Beijing faced pollution levels that were up to 3.5 times higher than those in recent Olympic cities like Athens, Atlanta and Sydney, said the study published Friday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The pollution often exceeded what the World Health Organization considers safe.

The joint American-Chinese study — the first major one published on air pollution during the Olympics — also found that the weather, and not the Chinese government’s strict controls imposed in the run-up to the games, played the largest role in clearing the air.

The government’s plans to control air pollution for the event gave international researchers a unique opportunity to observe a large-scale experiment. Scientists from Oregon State University and Peking University looked at Beijing’s worst air pollutant — tiny dust particles known as particulate matter — over an eight-week period before, during and after the games.
China poured some $20 billion into “greening” the city after it won the bid in 2001, including doubling the number of subway lines, retrofitting factories with cleaner technology and building urban parks.

Government officials also imposed drastic cleanup measures just before the games in mid-July, including pulling half the city’s 3.3 million vehicles off the roads, halting most construction and shutting down dozens of factories.

The study — funded by the National Science Foundation in the U.S. and the National Science Foundation in China — found that the level of particulate pollution in Beijing was twice as bad as in Athens, Greece; three times as bad as in Atlanta, Georgia; and 3.5 times as bad as in Sydney, Australia.

Researchers found that particulate air pollution did drop by about one-third during the two-week Olympic period. But coarser particulate matter, PM 10, exceeded levels the WHO considers safe about 81 percent of the time, while the smaller particulate pollution PM 2.5, which can cause more serious health consequences, exceeded WHO guidelines 100 percent of the time.

“It was a giant experiment and a noble effort. But in the end, the extra added measures didn’t help reduce PM concentration as much as had been expected,” said Staci Simonich, an associate professor of chemistry and toxicology at Oregon State University who worked on the study.

There has been no evidence so far of any health problems linked to the short-term exposure of athletes or spectators during the Olympics, researchers noted.

Further investigation suggested that weather conditions, such as rainfall and strong winds from the north and northwest, played a much larger factor in clearing the air than the pollution curbs.

Meteorological conditions accounted for 40 percent of the variation in concentrations of coarser particulate matter, while pollution control measures accounted for only 16 percent, the study said.

The findings also showed that the weather ushered some air pollution into Beijing from industrial regions south of the capital that had less severe pollution curbs, including Hebei, Shandong, and Shanxi. Those results indicated the difficulties in trying to control pollution at a local level when air masses tend to move regionally.

The findings don’t invalidate the government’s efforts, said Zhu Tong, professor at Peking University’s College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, and a co-researcher on the project.

“We learned a lot about how air pollution forms in a mega-city like Beijing, and how much pollution comes from which sources,” Zhu said.

Scientists also noted that their pollution measurements were about 30 percent higher than official figures by the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, though they said that reflected a difference in methodology.

Pollution expert Fang Ming, now retired from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the findings don’t break new ground in terms of understanding how air pollution works.

“Having said that, it is useful to know the effectiveness of the huge ‘green Olympic’ effort to clean up the air in Beijing,” he said in an e-mailed response.

Overall, the Olympic pollution control efforts were worthwhile because “it demonstrated to the Chinese government that they need to pay more attention to the environment and it is good for the country. It also says that this is doable and the people have to be a part of the effort,” he said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A Green Dawn On The Horizon

Michael Perry, SCMP – Jun 18, 2009

Centuries-old practices are going as Australian farmers embrace new ways to save the land

On the rolling hills of Winona, a fine merino sheep stud in New South Wales state, a quiet revolution is taking place that Australian farmers hope will see them selling soil carbon credits in the climate change battle instead of sticking semen up sheeps’ rears.

Colin Seis, one of the country’s leading “carbon farmers”, has for 10 years been encouraging the extraction of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and raising the carbon content of his soil to improve pastures.

Mr Seis estimates he has sequestered a total of 73,786 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 7,386 tonnes each year. As he only emits 2,200 tonnes farming, he has a credit of 5,186 tonnes of carbon.

Under Australia’s planned carbon emissions trading scheme, if Mr Seis continues sequestering carbon and maintains his credit, he could sell 5,186 tonnes for up to A$129,650 (HK$800,000), depending on the price.

Australia wants a formal carbon trading scheme by 2011, with agriculture possibly included in 2015. Australia’s planned Emissions Trading Scheme will have a fixed A$10 a tonne price in the first year, followed by an open market with an expected price of A$25 a tonne. But it is unclear what type of credit farmers would be allocated.

“Soil is the largest carbon sink we have control of. It’s a major answer [to climate change] yet it’s been overlooked,” Mr Seis said. “It’s so obvious because plants are the only thing taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.”

The Chicago Climate Exchange in the US has been trading soil carbon since 2005 but it is not an official offset under the Kyoto Protocol. The UN food and agriculture organisation and conservation farmers are pushing for the rules to be changed at the Copenhagen talks in December.

The Chicago Climate Exchange traded contracts worth 18.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the year to the end of April, with prices ranging from US$1.55 to US$2.05 per tonne.

Fifth-generation farmer Mr Seis said there were about 2,000 “carbon farmers” in Australia. Farmers are turning their backs on centuries-old practices brought from England, where paddocks were continually cropped and ploughed, and drenched with fertiliser and weed killer, and are adopting eco-friendly farming to repair damaged soil. Carbon farmers are adopting zero or minimum tillage, which does not plough the soil, increasing stock rotation to allow land to rest, sometimes for years, and avoiding bare earth with year-round cover with crops, native grasses and weeds. All these measures increase the biomass in the soil, making it more fertile and, in turn, increase the carbon in the soil.

Mr Seis “pasture crops” his 840-hectare farm near Gulgong in eastern Australia, planting cereals among native grasses to ensure paddocks are covered all year to allow plants to constantly absorb carbon and limit erosion.

“We do not kill the grasslands; we sow the crop when the grass is in its winter dormant phase. When we harvest, the grass comes back,” said Mr Seis. “What I have done is encourage nature to function as designed – to work with nature not against it.

Mr Seis has also reduced the size of his paddocks and rotates his 4,000 sheep regularly, what is called high-density short-duration grazing, or pulse grazing, ensuring paddocks are given long periods of rest from grazing to revive.

Despite a long-running drought, Mr Seis has enough ground cover to last the dry winter and no need to buy feed. He can also run two sheep per acre, double his neighbour.

Increasing soil carbon allows paddocks to retain more moisture for crops – a vital advantage for Australian farmers who have been battling decades of drought.

A 1 per cent increase in soil carbon means an extra 144,000 litres per hectare water capacity, says Mr Seis, who has increased his soil carbon from 2.5 per cent to 4 per cent, giving him an average of 300,000 litres extra water per hectare.

“It’s like putting your farm under a different rain zone. Carbon farming means your farm comes into drought later and comes out of drought sooner,” said Louisa Kiely, a fellow sheep farmer and co-founder of the lobby group Carbon Coalition.

Across the valley from Ms Kiely’s homestead stand three tombstones marking the graves of the property’s original owners, the Lahys from Tipperary, Ireland. Michael Lahy died in 1859. But those tombstones, surrounded by rotting, dead weeds, are the only remnants of the old farming ways on Uamby in NSW. The Kielys have turned their property into a pure carbon farm. “We have turned the farm over to native vegetation and grazing, and we can get carbon credits for it. There is a whole new economy developing,” said Michael Kiely, surveying his farm from the top of a hill.

Mr Seis and other Australian farmers are being hindered from selling carbon credits due to a lack of a formal protocol for measuring the increase in carbon in their soils and a formal market. Australia has only a small voluntary carbon market.

Australia’s annual greenhouse emissions total 553 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent, but would require only a 0.5 per cent rise in soil carbon in 2 per cent of farmland to sequester all the annual carbon dioxide emissions, Christine Jones, founder of Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme, said.

“Australia’s single greatest comparative advantage in the battle to reduce CO2 emissions is our enormous land mass – over 7 million square kilometres,” said opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, whose Liberal Party supports a policy of bio-sequestration. “The opportunities for CO2 abatement here are gigantic.”

Australia’s carbon farmers argue that the country’s depleted soil can be repaired to once again store more carbon. Since white settlement in Australia in 1788, more than 70 per cent of farmland has been seriously degraded, with a loss of 50 to 80 per cent of organic carbon from surface soil, says Ms Jones.

Broker Prime Carbon lists carbon credit units on Australia’s National Environment Registry and aims to convert 1 million hectares into sustainable farming by 2013, and provide wholesale carbon credits for national and international markets.

Prime Carbon had registered 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the past 18 months but sold only 10 per cent, said founder Ken Bellamy.

Measuring soil carbon gains is difficult as carbon levels vary between soils and rainfall areas. Soil carbon can differ from one end of a paddock to the other. “It is dynamic and always cycling and fluxing and cannot be measured like house bricks,” Mr Kiely said.

Another sticking point is how to ensure the carbon credit stays in the ground, as farming emits carbon. Agriculture accounts for 16 per cent of Australia’s emissions. Farmers argue that, if they remain in credit, then they are storing carbon.

Environmentally friendly ‘carbon farming’ techniques

By 2030, the UN estimates that 5.5 gigatonnes to 6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year could be mitigated by agriculture, with about 89 per cent achieved by soil carbon sequestration through cropland and grazing management, and restoration of organic soils.

Soil carbon is created when carbon dioxide is absorbed by vegetation, oxygen is released and carbon is used to make living tissue, such as vegetation. It is also produced by microbes and fungi, stimulated by plant roots as they push down through soil, retreating when the foliage above ground is grazed or harvested, then pushing down through the soil again as the foliage regrows.

Much of the carbon taken in by plants enters the top layer of the soil and is held there. Some is carried down to deeper layers of the soil where it can be held for hundreds of years.

Some carbon returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide from respiration of plants and some as methane from the rotting of vegetation.

Carbon farming is a new way to describe a collection of eco-friendly farming techniques which increase organic carbon in soil. Practices include:

100 per cent groundcover to prevent soil being blown or washed away: cooler soil is more attractive to microbes.

Grazing management: stock are left in small paddocks for short periods so they graze evenly and also till the soil with their hooves. When plants are lightly grazed, the roots go deeper into the soil helping create more carbon.

No till cropping or conservation tillage: farmers abandon ploughing and plant seeds by dropping them into ruts that barely disturb the soil, which avoids releasing soil carbon.
Pasture cropping: planting and growing crops among native grasses and weeds, taking advantage of their dormant period to grow and harvest crops. This ensures year-round ground cover of soil and more microbes.

Biological farming: zero chemical fertilisers.
“Mulching”: covering bare paddocks with hay or dead vegetation. This protects soil from the sun and allows the soil to hold more water and be more attractive to microbes.

Cleaner, greener diesel cars back on the road

New private diesel cars will be on sale in Hong Kong next month for the first time in more than a decade.

Audi’s distributor Premium Motors confirmed that one of its latest batch of Euro V diesel-engined cars, the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro, had passed the government’s stringent emissions standards and would be arriving in about a month.

Motor traders began a global hunt for suitable diesel cars after the Environmental Protection Department introduced what it called “improved flexibility in vehicle emissions standards” in January.

Diesel engines are considered more powerful and fuel-efficient than petrol engines, but in the past they were not welcomed because they emitted high levels of particulates and smog-inducing nitrogen oxides. But carbon monoxide emissions from Audi’s latest diesel engine were more than six times lower than the emissions standard for a Euro-V petrol car, nitrogen oxide emissions were 16.7 per cent lower, and particulate levels 78 per cent lower.

Premium Motors managing director Chong Got said the same diesel engine had been running in Europe for three years, but it had been difficult to convince Audi to alter the engine’s specifications just to fit Hong Kong’s emissions requirements because such a move would only boost sales by several hundred vehicles a year.

“The decision was made beyond business concerns,” he said. “The manufacturer values Hong Kong as a market; they are more concerned in boosting the brand’s name and goodwill.”

Audi would introduce more diesel models in the future. The Audi Q7 was expected to cost about HK$800,000 – 10 per cent more than its petrol counterpart. But the diesel model had better acceleration and was also about 30 per cent more fuel-efficient than the petrol model.

Diesel sells for HK$8.89 per litre – about two-thirds the price of petrol in Hong Kong.

Motor Traders Association chairman Michael Lee said he did not believe diesel cars would become very popular in the short term because most manufacturers were reluctant to alter their diesel engines for a small market like Hong Kong, and others were exploring alternative green vehicle models like hybrids and electric cars.

Under the existing transport policy, a person can only register a diesel-engined car as commercial vehicle or a cargo van.

Owners of commercial vehicles have to spare a third of their cabin space for cargo storage and cannot enter certain places, such as Mid-Levels, at certain times, although they also enjoy a big waiver on the first-registration tax.

Copyright © 2009 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All right reserved

—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 3:08 PM
Subject: Fw:
轉寄: E(10/0178a) ICC#1-217486902 Change in Info – Euro 5 diesel station wagon registration

Dear James Middleton,

Thank you for your enquiry about the registration of Euro 5 diesel private car in Hong Kong.

Roadside  air  pollution  in  Hong  Kong is caused mainly by respirable

suspended  particulates  (RSP) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Among private

cars,  petrol  models  are generally much cleaner than diesel models as

they  adopt  better  emission  control technology.  Comparing a typical

Euro  IV  petrol private car and diesel private car with similar engine

capacity, a Euro IV diesel private car emits about 7 times more NOx and

14  times  more  particulate matters (PM) than a Euro IV petrol private

car  on  average.   As  such, the government only allows diesel private

cars as clean as petrol private cars to be registered in Hong Kong.

Since  1998,  we  have  been  requiring diesel private cars to meet the

California  emission  standards  because  it  is the only international

standard  that  is  applicable  to both petrol and diesel private cars.

The  current  Euro  IV  NOx and PM emission standard for diesel private

cars  are  less  stringent  than  the petrol standard.  Even the Euro V

emission  standard for diesel private cars to be implemented by the European

Union  in 2011 is not on a par to the petrol standard.  Therefore we do

not  accept  Euro  IV and V emission standards for diesel private cars.

However,  Euro  V  emission standards for petrol private cars include a

new  PM  standard.   If you would like to purchase a diesel private car

in  UK,  please ensure that it meets Euro V petrol private car emission

standards  instead  of  Euro  V  diesel  private  car standards for the

registration in Hong Kong.

Under  the tax incentive scheme for environment-friendly petrol private

car,  only  petrol  private  car is eligible for the first registration



Vanessa AU

Environmental Protection Department

Road Particles Pose ‘Higher Risk’

By David ShukmanEnvironment correspondent, BBC News – 9 June 2009

Children may be at greater risk from the microscopic particles in traffic pollution than was previously thought.

Early findings from a major study in London seen by the BBC show that the lung capacity of 8- and 9-year-olds is 5% lower than the national average.

And 7% of the children – surveyed in the Tower Hamlets area – have lung function reduced to a level internationally regarded as hazardous.

The London study is being led by Professor Jonathan Grigg.

He works out of the Centre for Paediatrics at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Leaf clues

The particles – so-called “particulates” – are produced in vehicle exhaust and are far smaller than the width of a human hair.

Less than 10 microns across, they are often referred to as PM10.

The results come as researchers at Lancaster University warn that levels of particulates are often higher than shown by official monitoring devices.

Analysing the particulates collected on roadside leaves, the research shows that the pollution can be most intense at the height of many children.

Britain already faces penalties from the European Union for multiple breaches of standards for particulate pollution.

Professor Grigg told BBC News: “Our findings in the East End of London are that children living here have slightly lower lung function than what we’d expect from the national average.

“Now, if that’s due to air pollution, as we suspect, they’re going to be at increased risk from a range of respiratory disorders such as asthma and infection, and may be at risk in adulthood.”

Cough test

A total of 203 children at 10 different schools are taking part in regular tests over several years.

Interim findings from 149 children show that 11 of them have lung capacity that is 80% or lower than the national average – a threshold regarded by researchers as vulnerable to a range of breathing conditions.

One test involves encouraging the children to cough – so the carbon content of their sputum can be analysed.

Microscope analysis shows how particulates are reaching deep into the lungs. These results will add pressure on the government over Britain’s failure to meet European Union air quality standards.

The EU requirement is for average PM10 concentrations to stay below 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air – but most of the country’s major conurbations record higher levels. And the new research by Lancaster University shows that the particulate
levels may be even worse than official figures show.

The official data is gathered at automatic monitoring stations which typically sample air at a height of three metres – mainly to avoid the risk of vandalism.

But Professor Barbara Maher and her team have devised a new technique for measuring the magnetic response of particulates on roadside leaves – many of the particles contain fragments of metal.

And the readings show higher concentrations of particulates at lower levels.

‘Progress made’

Interviewed beside a busy road in Lancaster, Professor Maher said: “We’re
surrounded by this invisible mist of these millions of toxic particles – you can’t see them but we know, we’ve measured them, they’re here. “When we do our leaf magnetic measurements, our research shows that down at small child height the concentrations – the number – of these very fineparticles is sometimes twice the current EU regulation standard.”

One set of measurements, outside the Cathedral School in Lancaster, revealed particulate levels that were above the EU standard. The school’s head, Anne Goddard, said the findings were “quite worrying”.

“It’s the only playground we have at the school and it’s right next to the road. The levels are high so obviously the effect on the children, especially those with asthma, is a concern.” The Environment Secretary Hilary Benn admits there is a problem but says 24 out of 27 members of the European Union are in breach of the standards and that most of the landmass of Britain does meet the requirements. He also said that “huge progress” had been made in the last few decades with the Clean Air Act and changes in vehicles standards. “But we need to do more and principally that will be about cars and lorries and buses,” he said. “And we’ve been working with other countries in Europe to improve the standards to get these PM10 particles down because we know it has an effect on our health.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

Carbon Duties: Heat Rising On Developing Economies

Tom Holland, SCMP – Jun 05, 2009

You probably don’t spend much time wondering what Tung Chee-hwa is up to these days, so it’s unlikely you noticed in April when Hong Kong’s former chief executive cropped up in New York, warning that a proposed United States tax on imports could spark a heated trade dispute with China.

If you think his warning was old news, you’re wrong. Mr Tung is well ahead of most of Hong Kong’s business and finance community in waking up to a new danger. With good reason: under the most likely scenario, Orient Overseas (International) (SEHK: 0316) Ltd, the shipping company controlled by Mr Tung’s family, could be one of the biggest losers from a new tax.

Mr Tung is worried about proposals to slap a carbon duty on imports from the mainland.

With December’s Copenhagen climate conference fast approaching and developing economies, led by China and India, fiercely opposed to accepting reductions on their own emissions of greenhouse gases, calls are mounting for the US and Europe unilaterally to impose carbon taxes on imports from unco-operative countries.

If they do, the effect on Asian companies’ earnings could be devastating.

In a new research report, Simon Smiles, the head of thematic research at investment bank UBS, has estimated the bottom-line impact on Asian corporations of three different carbon pricing schemes.

Under the first scenario, Asian countries introduce their own domestic carbon pricing regimes, either through cap-and-trade programmes or through direct taxes. In this case, the heaviest blow would fall on the profits of big domestic emitters like power generators, steel mills and cement companies.

Assuming that domestic pricing aims for a 20 per cent reduction at a relatively conservative cost of US$9 a tonne for overall carbon emissions, Mr Smiles calculates that the earnings per share of Hong Kong-listed mainland power producers such as Datang International Power Generation (SEHK: 0991) would be wiped out entirely, with the companies plunged deep into loss. However, the chances that Beijing will impose a meaningful domestic pricing system any time soon are negligible.

As a result, the second scenario, under which the US and Europe introduce their own pricing schemes and simultaneously impose carbon duties on products imported from Asian countries in order to level the playing field for their domestic producers, is far more likely. This outcome would deal a disproportionately harsh blow to the earnings of airlines and shipping companies that do business with the US and Europe.

According to Mr Smiles’ research, Cathay Pacific Airways (SEHK: 0293)’ earnings could fall 8.1 per cent, while OOIL’s earnings would slump 9.7 per cent.

The most damaging scenario, however, is the last. In this one, the developed world concludes that it is impossible to mitigate climate change unless China and India begin to reduce their emissions and so introduces a flat tax on goods imports intended to force their hands.

Mr Smiles estimates that this could result in an 8.5 per cent duty on all imports from China, which would be enough entirely to wipe out the profits of computer manufacturers such as Lenovo Group (SEHK: 0992, announcements, news) and which would eat deep into the earnings of supply-chain manager Li & Fung and clothing company Texwinca (SEHK: 0321) (see the chart).

Such an extreme scenario is unlikely. But the second possibility – an equalising carbon duty on imports to level the playing field for developed-world producers – is looking increasingly probable.

US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is in favour of such a scheme, and legislation currently before the Congress allows for equalising duties on imports of iron, steel, aluminium, cement, glass and a range of chemicals.

Mr Tung is right to be concerned, and investors in Hong Kong stocks should be worried.

World Attention Turns to Asia’s Carbon Emissions

Michael Richardson, SCMP – Updated on Jun 03, 2009

Officials from China and other countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, until June 12 for more negotiations on a new set of global arrangements to prevent runaway climate change. The deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012, is supposed to be clinched at a climate summit convened by the United Nations in Copenhagen in December.

Concluding an effective agreement by then will be tough. But even as they defend national interests, negotiators need to bear in mind the latest evidence of the continuing build-up of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere despite the economic slump, and the projections for a further massive rise as growth resumes, particularly in Asia.

The top US energy forecaster reported last week that, without new national policies and a binding international agreement to cut global-warming pollution, world carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels will rise, from 29 billion tonnes in 2006 to 33 billion tonnes in 2015 and 40.4 billion tonnes in 2030.

To put this into perspective, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of scientists and officials advising the UN said – in its most recent report to policymakers two years ago – that nearly 57 per cent of the 49 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere in 2004 came from fossil fuels.

The UN and the Kyoto Protocol seek to control six greenhouse gases. But just two of them, carbon dioxide and methane (the main component of natural gas) are responsible for 91 per cent of the global warming attributed to the six gases.

Earlier this year, researchers from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measured an extra 16.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and 12.2 billion tonnes of methane in the atmosphere in 2008 – despite the economic downturn in the second half of the year and the decrease in a wide range of activities that depend on fossil fuel use.

The forecast last week by the US Energy Information Administration said that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the 30 member-states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – most of which are among the richest and most advanced economies in the world – were declining relative to those of non-OECD developing nations.

Asia, which in 2006 emitted 9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas, will release 17 billion tonnes in 2030, making the region by far the world’s leading polluter over the period.

Much of the pollution will come from coal, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels. In 2030, carbon dioxide emissions from China and India combined are projected to account for 34 per cent of total global emissions, with China alone responsible for 29 per cent.

These projections underline the need for developed countries to reach a deal with developing nations on a new framework for limiting global warming gases.

Without it, the world will be like a binge-drinker whose excesses produce a nasty hangover.

Scientists say that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and cutting forests is accumulating in the atmosphere twice as fast as it can be absorbed by oceans and plants.

Once released, carbon dioxide also persists for a long time.

The IPCC says about 50 per cent of a carbon dioxide increase will be removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30 per cent will be removed within a few centuries.

But the remaining 20 per cent may stay for many thousands of years.

The question is whether the evidence can convince political leaders preoccupied with short-term problems, like reviving economic growth, that the costs of taking action now to safeguard future generations is a worthwhile investment.


Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.