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Pollution In Chinese Cities ‘Extremely Severe’

1 day ago AFP

BEIJING (AFP) — Air pollution in China’s cities remains very serious, state media on Thursday quoted a minister as saying, amid an ongoing battle to clean up the skies in the world’s largest coal-consuming nation.

“There is the potential for serious air pollution incidents to happen, and the air environment situation is extremely severe,” environmental protection minister Zhou Shengxian told parliament, the official People’s Daily said.

“The difficulties in managing air pollution are intensifying, and environmental regulations as well as protection systems need to be further strengthened,” he said Wednesday.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal and its appetite for the cheap fuel is growing as its economy expands, according to the Energy Bulletin, a website that monitors global energy supplies.

In 2006, the World Bank said that 16 out of 20 of the world’s worst polluted cities were in China.

A recent report by the state Xinhua news agency, citing a survey conducted in November last year in 320 cities, said the average air quality in two out of five Chinese cities ranged from “polluted” to “hazardous”.

Zhou said car exhaust fumes also played a large role in air pollution in the country’s big and medium-sized cities, the report said.

China’s worst air pollution was concentrated in the Yangtze River delta, which includes Shanghai, and the Pearl River delta — the manufacturing hub in the south of the country that is home to Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Air pollution in the capital Beijing, nearby Tianjin and surrounding Hebei province is also bad, he said.

But Zhou said there had been improvement in some cities in China, without listing any specific locations.

The China Daily reported at the start of the month that Beijing’s air quality was improving as a result of post-Olympics traffic control measures that had seen about 900,000 cars taken off the roads every weekday.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Delta Air Quality ‘Making Huge Gains’ – Officials Claim Success In Anti-pollution Drive

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Apr 23, 2009

Environmental officials have claimed “huge” success in efforts to improve air quality in the Pearl River Delta, although they admit plummeting industrial production could have had something to do with it.

They say that after completion of major sulfur-reduction projects in Guangdong and a switch to cleaner industrial and vehicle fuel, concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the air fell by a third in the six months to March compared with a year earlier.

The drop was in line with a general improvement in air quality in the region as reported in the latest regional air quality monitoring results for last year, released yesterday.

A Hong Kong environmental official said factory closures could have been a factor and monitoring over a longer period was needed to be sure. “But so far we do not believe the financial tsunami alone could have brought such huge progress.”

The results showed that the annual average concentration for sulfur dioxide, a major pollutant from fuel combustion, dropped by 19 per cent compared with 2007, while the particulate matter level fell 11 per cent.

The levels of two other pollutants, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, however, remained largely the same as in the previous year.

It was the third report on the region’s air quality since a cross-border monitoring network, with 16 stations in Guangdong and Hong Kong, came into operation in late 2005. The network provides the regional air quality monitoring index daily on the websites of the Environmental Protection Department and Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau.

The report showed that the proportion of days with the worst air quality dropped from 10.5 per cent in 2007 to 7.5 per cent last year, while good air quality days increased to 71 per cent, from 66 per cent in 2007.

Pollution also reduced significantly in individual areas, particularly in the black-spot cities of Foshan and Zhaoqing .

Despite the improvement, a Hong Kong environmental official was cautious about saying last year represented a watershed in the battle to reverse the trend of worsening air quality in the delta. “We need more monitoring data, say, for five years, to ascertain that,” he said.

The official attributed the change to the completion of desulfurisation projects at major power plants in Guangdong. Coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 26,000MW were fitted with sulfur scrubbers last year, more than double the capacity in late 2007. Smaller polluting generation units with a total capacity of 3,600MW have been closed down.

The official said upgrading vehicle fuel with less sulfur in Guangdong and using ultra-low-sulfur fuel for industries in Hong Kong also added to the progress. Sulfur dioxide and particulate levels in Hong Kong fell by 7 and 5 per cent last year, though the ozone level rose by 5 per cent, he said.

The sky has also cleared somewhat, with the number of hours with poor visibility falling to 1,100 last year, from nearly 1,300 hours in 2007, the Observatory has reported.

Delta Plan ‘To Exclude Cut In CO2 Emissions’ Main Greenhouse Gas Left Out For A Decade

Chloe Lai in Guangzhou, SCMP – Mar 30, 2009

Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is likely to be excluded from the Pearl River Delta air quality management plan for a further decade.

The plan is due for renewal by the Guangdong and Hong Kong governments next year and the Environmental Protection Department is tight-lipped on whether CO2 will be included. But a source close to the Guangdong government said CO2 was likely to be excluded from the plan.

“The only possible way to have the greenhouse gas included in the monitoring is Hong Kong doing it internally, setting a model for Guangdong,” the source said.

Both sides are now discussing the next targets for 2020 and which emissions should be included.

Hong Kong and Guangdong agreed in 2002 to reduce emission of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, respirable suspended particulates and volatile organic compounds by 40 per cent, 20 per cent, 55 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively, by 2010.

The city is confident it will meet those targets, according to a mid-term review the Environmental Protection Department released early last year. But the department says Guangdong would have to implement additional control measures to meet them.

Hong Kong released 45 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006, according to government figures. This equals 6 tonnes per person, or 0.1 per cent of the world’s total emission.

Hong Kong’s principal source of CO2 emissions is power generation, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the total. Green groups in Hong Kong have for years been urging the government to set an emission target on CO2.

The Environmental Protection Department has commissioned a consultancy study on climate change in Hong Kong which is due to be completed by the end of the year.

It will review and update the inventories of greenhouse gases in Hong Kong, characterise the impact of climate change on the city, and recommend additional policies and measures to reduce such emissions.

While the city is not obliged under the Kyoto Protocol to set any reduction targets for emissions, the government pledged along with other Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation economies in 2007 to reduce Hong Kong’s energy intensity by a quarter by 2030, with 2005 as the base year.

The UN is hosting a two-week meeting with 175 countries participating, including China, to craft a new agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

At a meeting between the Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Guangdong party chief Wang Yang early this month, both sides agreed to jointly map out further arrangements on how to improve regional air quality.

It is understood authorities in Guangdong have started to decide on the province’s emission targets for the 12th five-year plan.

Chen Guangrong, deputy head of the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau, also hinted that the province would continue to exclude CO2 from its reduction targets.

“China is a developing country; there is no compulsory obligation for us to cut CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. But we are doing it voluntarily,” Mr Chen said.

Environmentalists hope the two governments will change their minds.

“There are many of things both sides need to do to improve regional air quality,” Conservancy Association spokesman Hung Wing-tat said. “They should build more monitoring stations, and including CO2 in the monitoring will give us a better picture of greenhouse gas emission in the area.”

Wang Canfa, an environmental expert at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said it was important for both governments to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

But it would be more appropriate to do so on a voluntary basis. “There is no law in China on cutting CO2, so it will be difficult for them to set a target and make it compulsory.”

Historic Opportunity For A Cleaner, Greener World

SCMP – Updated on Feb 07, 2009

China and the United States are not only two of the world’s most important economies but also its worst polluters. The economic crisis has raised the spectre of protectionism and a trade war between them. However, an unexpected opening may put them on a more co-operative footing: climate change. China is reeling from environmental degradation that has put its economic development in jeopardy. Under former president George W. Bush, the US compromised its leadership by ignoring global warming and its potentially devastating effects. By working together, the two nations will not only help secure a brighter future for their own citizens, but for humankind too. The world desperately needs a viable treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, one that will drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions before global warming becomes irreversible. It is unlikely to succeed without China and the US on board. Negotiations have stalled despite a looming deadline. The rich countries, led by the US and the European Union, want to impose emission caps on emerging economies. But many developing nations, represented by China and India, will only accept voluntary limits and say the rich economies – as, historically, the biggest polluters – should pay for the cleanup and help them develop clean technology and alternative energy.

The latest signals from Washington may indicate a way forward. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called on China to work with the US to develop “a strong and constructive partnership” and build clean-energy economies under “a new framework”. China’s ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, reaffirmed the two nations had many shared interests in energy development and climate change. Both sides are preparing a positive atmosphere for Mrs Clinton’s East Asia tour this month, her first overseas trip since taking over America’s top diplomatic post. Beijing has previously underscored the importance it attaches to climate change as a potential flashpoint of its foreign policy by setting up a top-level group headed by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

But meaningful co-operation has to benefit both sides. China’s transport boom is a growing environmental challenge. Beijing should make it a matter of national policy to promote hybrid and electric cars and phase out polluting vehicles. There is a huge potential market here for the car industries of the US and Japan. US carmakers are being bailed out by the federal government and are under pressure to produce not only fuel-efficient vehicles but “green” cars as well. China’s market can be a lifeline for them. China should also harness market forces to help its industries adopt alternative energy and clean-coal technology. It needs to accelerate a programme to force coal-fired power stations and factories to clean up and use energy more efficiently. Beijing is right to promote the wider use of natural gas in the richer southeast, as it has in the northwest.

But as the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases on a per capita basis, Americans must change their
lifestyle. US President Barack Obama will embark on massive rebuilding of public infrastructure as part of an economic recovery plan. He will do well to focus on building public transport systems to break the American habit of going everywhere in gas guzzlers. Instead of encouraging the development of distant suburbs, people should live closer to cities or to where they work. China and the US must work together to foster a better environment for future generations. They must not squander this historic opportunity.

Beijing Wants To Work With US On Climate Change, Says Ambassador

Agence France-Presse in Washington, SCMP – Updated on Feb 07, 2009

China wants US help rather than complaints on climate change, and could be finding a receptive audience as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prepares to visit Beijing. With international talks on global warming intensifying this year, Beijing’s ambassador appealed on Thursday to US commercial self-interest to assist his government’s efforts to combat the problem.

Zhou Wenzhong said Beijing must focus on industrial growth to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty but was not stinting in the global warming fight.

And he said China and the United States, the world’s biggest polluters, could profitably work together and set an example for the international community leading up to a December climate meeting in Copenhagen.

“China and the United States have many shared interests and extensive areas for co-operation on energy and climate change,” he said at a Brookings Institution forum.

The United States should offer its “advanced technologies and a rich experience in energy efficiency and clean energy” to boost China’s own plan, the ambassador said.

“Co-operation between our two countries on energy and environmental issues will enable China to respond to energy and climate change issues more effectively while at the same time offering enormous business opportunities and considerable return to American investors.”

US President Barack Obama has pledged to reverse the resistance of his predecessor, George W. Bush, to action on climate change.

Democrats who control the US Congress have said they hope to have major legislation creating a “cap-and-trade” system for limiting “greenhouse gases” before the Copenhagen talks.

And they have said the paralysing US recession is no excuse for inaction – noting that Mr Obama’s economic stimulus package contains steps to promote clean energy.

But Republicans have signalled they will not sign on to any restrictions on the US economy while letting developing competitors such as China off the hook.

US officials will present their case in person when Mrs Clinton visits China from February 20 to 22.

Mrs Clinton’s new special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, is to join her in Beijing, a State Department official said.

“We need to put finger-pointing aside and focus on how our two leading nations can work together productively to solve the problem,” Mr Stern told The New York Times.

Brookings experts Kenneth Lieberthal and David Sandalow presented a new report proposing incremental steps by the United States and China to co-operate. Among their recommendations was a presidential climate change summit, joint work on clean energy, and the promotion of anti-warming initiatives.

“It’s clear that if the US expects co-operation from China, the US will have to lead,” said Stuart Eizenstat, lead US negotiator at the Kyoto climate talks in the 1990s.

But he stressed that without well-publicised initiatives on the Chinese side, any successor treaty to Kyoto negotiated at Copenhagen would be dead on arrival in the US Senate.

Air Quality Standards Review

The following letter was sent to the Director of Environmental Protection by Clear The Air:

Director of Environmental Protection – ENB

24th January 2009

Air Quality Standards Review

Dear Sir,

We are writing to express our NGO’s concern that Hong Kong’s air pollution is damaging local residents’ and visitors’ health and that the Administration’s belated current measures to address the problems remain ineffective whilst simply reporting platitudes.

Hong Kong is an extremely wealthy and developed first world city with ample resources to reduce air pollution , given the will to do so, and yet we know from the Hedley Environmental Index that last year alone 1,155 people died prematurely, there were over 83,000 avoidable hospital bed days, and 7.25 million doctors’ visits which were directly attributable to the toxic effects of local air pollution; this was at a minimum conservative cost of over HK$2.3 billion to society. We also know that for the major part of the year, the major pollution sources were locally generated. Our local power stations in 2007 burned 3 times more coal than they did in 1997 and 40% less gas than in 1999. Their greed is killing people. Perhaps you should suggest Exxon executives come and live here with their children ?

Given this evidence, we call on the Administration to demonstrate its commitment to imminent improvement of public health and reduction of resultant health costs by setting the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines as the new Air Quality Standards for Hong Kong, and to set out a strategy on how it intends to achieve these Standards. Without gazetted Standards the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle cannot be effective.

In this strategy please address all the major sources of pollution, but please apply particular urgency to reducing emissions from marine vessels and non Euro V diesel on road / off road vehicles. We encourage you to enact large increases in road tax for non Euro V diesel trucks, vans and buses (thereby making these vehicle owners trade up to Euro V) and to insist forthwith on low sulphur bunker fuel use within Hong Kong waters. We appreciate that the emissions from local power stations might soon be reduced following your Department’s belated requirement that flue gas desulphurization equipment is installed as well as Nox burners. In addition the level of the Standards you set MUST therefore require the power companies apply Best Available Current Technology and fuel mix and that includes agglomerators which can catch the lethal PM0.1 ultrafine and PM2.5 heavy metal emissions which the Electrostatic Precipitators cannot currently catch.

We would stress that Air Quality Standards and a clean air strategy that do not lead to rapid improvements in public health cannot be considered an acceptable outcome of the Review and action is required, not further consultation of a public that has already grown tired of this Government’s lack of decisive action.
Yours faithfully,

James Middleton
Chairman Energy Committee

Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Causes Some to Think Twice About Living There

By Kari Jensen, VOA – 15 January 2009

Air pollution in Hong Kong has gotten so bad that some businesses are losing staff and customers. A city watchdog group says the government is not doing enough to reduce pollution, much of which comes from mainland China.

Hong Kong’s skies were clear and blue when Alan Knight first arrived there in 1993. But, within 12 years, the city had become so polluted there were days when he could not see through the gray haze across Victoria Harbor.

Knight’s work requires travel. He is a journalist and professor. He also has a lung condition, which usually is dormant. But it flared, a few years back, when he returned to Hong Kong. He was hospitalized and received high dosages of antibiotics. Once he was back in Brisbane, Australia the condition resolved itself.

Knight says he is looking to move back to Asia, but not Hong Kong.

“I think the atmosphere in Hong Kong is really toxic,” he said. “I’d love to come back to Hong Kong. I love the city. I love the people. I love the place. But, quite frankly, I’m likely to live in Singapore.”

The city’s poor air quality is affecting both its residents’ health and its economy. A recent survey shows one in five Hong Kongers may leave the city, because of air pollution. Air pollution costs more than $283 million annually in health care costs and lost job prospects.

Michael DeGolyer is a professor in international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He conducted the air pollution survey for Civic Exchange, a public policy think tank.

He says about 30 percent of those who are seriously considering leaving because of bad air are mid- to high-level professionals.

DeGolyer says more than 97 percent of those surveyed were ethnic Chinese. He says air pollution is not just an expat concern.

“Everybody breathes air,” he said. “And, it’s become a concern to everybody now.”

In southern China, factories are closing down, in part because of tougher environmental standards. Still, Chinese factories in the Pearl River Delta north of Hong Kong are the city’s major source of pollution.

But half the time, Hong Kong’s pollution comes directly from its power plants, vehicular emissions and marine traffic.

In the city’s urban areas, tall buildings trap particulates, instead of allowing them to be dispersed by the wind. Residents live close to the roadways and are constantly exposed.

Local activists are looking to other major cities to see what they did to curtail pollution. DeGolyer says research in California shows money spent on air pollution abatement was more than recovered by reduced health care costs and improved worker productivity.

Civic Exchange is pushing Hong Kong to impose stricter air quality standards. It wants the environmental standards to also protect public health. It hosted a clean air conference recently, where international researchers, scientists, economists and academics discussed green measures.

Hong Kong’s present guidelines have not been updated for more than two decades. The city’s air quality, in terms of sulfur content, is much less stringent than World Health Organization guidelines set in 2006.

A Hong Kong legislature’s environmental affairs committee plans to review air quality guidelines and possibly adopt more stringent standards this year.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department has made efforts to curtail pollution. It has tightened vehicle and power plant emissions and introduced cleaner fuels.

Although sulfur dioxide emissions in the city have dropped back to almost 1997 levels, they are still well above the government’s emission-reduction targets. Air pollution worsened this past year.

Government detractors say, in terms of addressing air pollution, the legislature favors business, especially the transport lobby.

Businesses are quick to defend themselves. Al Hendricks works for a company that manufactures energy-saving equipment. He says industry is less resistant to change than government.

“There’s people here who just don’t want to make changes and are either afraid to or just don’t want to rock the boat for whatever reason,” he said.

Hendricks says the government needs to offer incentives if it wants businesses to enforce environmental standards.

As upper-level professionals leave Hong Kong for jobs in less-polluted cities, businesses may be forced to change without government prodding. The demand for top talent across Asia is high.

It is a delicate balance. By imposing stricter standards, Hong Kong may lose business to nearby Chinese ports and cities, which have looser standards. But, by not cleaning up its air, Hong Kong is already losing professionals and businesses.

The Hong Kong government is working with the government of southern Guangdong province to reduce regional emissions.

Guangdong has agreed to ban the construction of new coal-fired or oil-fired power plants.

Still, even if Hong Kong addresses its air pollution, it can not force Guangdong to take the same measures.

Silence Is Not Golden

CHRISTINE LOH – SCMP – Jan 15, 2009

It’s curious, but people are not voicing their concern about air pollution to those who can most do something about it. The government needs to adopt the national environmental plan and set a good example. Civic Exchange’s full survey report, titled “Hong Kong’s Silent Epidemic” and carried out by the Hong Kong Transition Project, was released last Saturday. It looked at how the public is reacting to air pollution and public health. It found that people discuss air pollution with family, friends and co-workers but most of them are not taking matters up with the government, legislators and the media.

So why don’t people complain publicly? They say they don’t think it will help. Some say they don’t know how to, while some don’t believe air pollution is affecting them.

Government officials should pay close attention to the report. It reflects badly on them when people say complaining won’t help. These people have lost confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the problem. The administration also has a responsibility to those who don’t know how to complain, or don’t believe they are affected. Hong Kong’s high level of air pollution speaks for itself – officials need to act.

Moreover, the level of dissatisfaction with government efforts is a very high 77 per cent. Past efforts have included switching taxis and minibuses from using diesel to LPG, supplying ultra-low-sulphur diesel, pushing regulation of idling engines, providing subsidies to replace highly polluting commercial lorries, and tightening emission caps for power plants. But despite these, the public remains dissatisfied, even though people have been silent. Pollution levels have not changed much, according to scientific data, and most people don’t feel any different. Those in charge will no doubt argue that Hong Kong will see substantial reductions in power-plant emissions because of the addition of flue gas desulfurisation technology. With the phased commissioning, Hong Kong should see lower emissions later this year. By 2011, 90 per cent of sulfur dioxide emissions from power generation should have been eliminated, and other pollutants significantly reduced. Officials have focused on power plants in their pollution-reduction strategy. They have yet to get to grips with another major polluter – transport. Viewed in this light, power plants are the easy option. There are only two power utilities in the city. Yet, transport involves many operators, on land, sea and in the air. The major public health culprits are diesel-powered road vehicles – vans, buses and lorries – and marine vessels – tugs, barges, ferries and ships of various sizes.

So far, government initiatives have, on the whole, been end-of-pipe solutions, such as switching to cleaner fuels and adding emissions traps. There have been limited efforts to combine them with urban planning and demand-side management tools to reduce the “canyon effect” on streets and create better roadside environments for the public. And hardly anything has been done to combat the pollution from the burning of toxic bunker fuels, by marine vessels, that gets blown to where people live and work.

It has become blindingly obvious that the government needs to change direction. Public health needs to be an explicit regulatory and legislative driver, and government bureaus and departments must integrate their work. There has been a lack of vision and leadership at the very top. Now the legislature has formed a new subcommittee to tackle air pollution, lawmakers can play a much more active role in calling officials to account and pushing for integrated policies. Without this, we have little to look forward to.

There will be those who say it is not the time to push because of the economic situation. The national 11th Five-Year plan would make good reading for them. The plan puts environmental protection on a par with economic growth and recognises that change must involve comprehensive action using legal, economic, technological and administrative measures. There is a national vision – would Hong Kong’s officials like to get on board?

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

Clear the Air: Letter to Legco Member On HK Air Pollution Policy

The following letter was sent to the Legco Member by Clear The Air:

8th January 2009

Dear Legco Members,

Clear the Air commends the Legco motion to pressure the Government to act by adopting WHO standards at an appropriate level and not at emerging nation levels which are lower than we have now.

We fail to see how ARUP, the consultants appointed to perform the AQO study , could possibly know more than the eminent researchers used by WHO in formulating its standards. We see no benefit in the EPD further engaging the public in consultations on our pea soup air and delaying matters further.

Our major pollution sources that damage health (moreso the growing lungs of our children) are our coal burning power stations , old diesel trucks and busses, ocean vessels burning high sulphur bunker fuel in the busiest port in the world , unburnt aircraft kerosene and for half of the year, imported pollution from the PRD.

The Government must also be forced to accelerate the use of the 52 million cubic meters of methane currently being flared off from NENT, WENT and SENT landfills. In the UK Gasrec Ltd has produced a diesel fuel replacement from landfill methane, Liquid Biomethane to replace diesel use in vehicles.

In San Antonio Texas, human waste will be used to produce methane to power the whole city. In Rwanda a prison is run by electricity powered from the same source. In Hong Kong instead, Government is calling for quotes to build and operate a sludge incinerator rather than taking heed of the San Antonio project.

The power companies are burning more and more polluting coal. In 2007 CLP burned 3 times more coal than in 1997. In 2007 CLP used 40% less clean natural gas than in 1999 whilst producing more electricity. HK Electric has only one gas turbine capable of 335 MWh and produced only 17% of its product with gas last year.

The Government must insist on these WHO AQO standards and the power companies will comply by using BACT (Best Available Current Technology). If the standards are set too leniently the power companies can benefit from burning more Indonesian cheap coal whilst still meeting the emission standards.

The technology is available such as Indigo Agglomerators. If you study the technical documentation available on this site
you will see how the tiny particulates reduce visibility opacity and add to the haze layer. The sky might be blue but the air we breathe is still smoggy grey and laden with these particulates. For the cost of 17 days’ coal supply CLP could retrofit a further 15 agglomerators and clear our air. HKEH would cost even less to do the same.

Only now are the power companies fitting Flue Gas Desulphurisation and NOx burner technology. In fact the super heat NOx burners create another problem in that they ‘crack’ the soot particles into lethal PM2.5 (report available). Current Electrostatic Precipitators in the power station stacks catch only 99% of soot particles and the remaining PM2.5 they cannot catch is then belched into the air. That is several thousand tonnes of lethal particles per year, let alone the greenhouse CO2. Hong Kong currently has no PM2.5 standard and PM2.5 is the killer; neither does it have any CO2 controls.

PM2.5 is a particulate with a diameter 1/30 of a human hair , it carries heavy metals and poisons from the coal and diesel combustion processes , cannot be stopped by nose hairs and so enters deep into the lungs.

It seems Hong Kong has a NATO Administration – No Action Talk Only.

Yours sincerely,

James Middleton

Energy Committee

Reference:  New Hong Kong Air Pollution Policy Proposed

Economy May Affect Greenhouse Gas Targets

Stephen Chen – SCMP | Updated on Nov 08, 2008

China would have a difficult task in overcoming economic hurdles to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets, a senior central government official said yesterday. Miao Xu, deputy minister of industry and information technology, said in Shanghai that the nation was facing a lot of unexpected adversities this year from home and abroad, making the task of cutting emissions and pollution extremely challenging, Xinhua reported.

The country’s goal, set by the 11th Five-Year Plan, was to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent in 2010 and emissions of major pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and airborne dust, by 10 per cent from 2006.

But even with a thriving economy in the plan’s first two years, the country failed to keep up with the annual benchmarks and, because of a disappointing performance in the first half of this year, will probably miss the mark again.

Those failures would make the job difficult, if not impossible in the next two years, Mr Miao said.

To make things worse, an unprecedented blizzard and earthquake hit the nation this year before the world’s biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression began.

He said that to meet the emissions targets in the plan’s remaining two years, the country would have to reduce energy consumption by 18 per cent through industrial upgrades, including rapidly adopting some of the world’s most advanced manufacturing technology.

Mainland enterprises, from steel to power and light industry, have invested heavily in energy efficiency, mostly through funds raised in a booming stock market and foreign investment.

But mainland stock markets have dropped by more than 70 per cent this year, and many companies have reported sharp falls in profit, and even losses.

Gross domestic product in the first three quarters dropped to 9.9 per cent, a 2.3 percentage-point decline from last year, recording the first growth rate below 10 per cent in five years.

The growth rate of large industries was cut by more than 3 percentage points, and investment in infrastructure fell by 10 per cent.

It would be difficult to imagine that, under such economic circumstances, business would have much incentive to take part in the global anti-climate-warming campaign, some environmental experts said.

Even so, the government was considering dramatically increasing public investment to meet the emissions target, Huang Li , deputy director of the National Energy Bureau’s energy conservation and scientific equipment department, told Xinhua in Chengdu yesterday.

The State Council had discussed a proposal to nearly double the targeted nuclear capacity to 7,000 MW by 2020, Mr Huang said.