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October, 2008:

Scientist Warns Emissions Trading Scheme Too Little, Too Late

Article from: The Courier-Mail, By Greg Stolz | October 31, 2008

  • Flannery pessimistic about ETS
  • Predicts catastrophe within a decade
  • Impact will be unexpected

AN emissions trading scheme will not be enough to stop a potential climatic catastrophe on the same scale as the global financial crisis within 10 years, Australian scientist Tim Flannery has warned.

Dr Flannery told an international carbon market conference on the Gold Coast yesterday that emissions trading schemes alone could not save the planet in time.

The 2007 Australian of the Year said he had a “sense of foreboding” about what lay ahead if more was not done to tackle climate change.

“I suspect that within the next decade, we are likely to see some dramatic climate shift a bit like we’ve seen in our financial systems over the last few months,” he told the Carbon Market Expo Australasia conference.

“It will be swift and it will have many unintended consequences. The problem is a lot closer than we imagined.”

Dr Flannery said the catastrophe could be a large-scale methane release which would cook the planet or major ice sheet destabilisation.

He had not seen the Rudd Government’s economic modelling for the proposed emissions trading scheme but said critics should look to Europe as a guide.

“There has been no impact in Europe and there is likely to be a small impact if any in Australia in my view,” he said.

One of the best ways to slow climate change was to harness the planet’s huge natural power to suck carbon pollution out of the atmosphere, he said

Air Quality Targets Dangerously Inadequate For Public Health

SCMP – Updated on Oct 31, 2008

We agree with views expressed by Anthony J. Hedley and Wong Chit-ming, of the University of Hong Kong (“New air quality measures inadequate“, October 25).

We are extremely concerned that the government is proposing to use the very lowest tier of the WHO air quality targets as our air quality objectives.

The World Health Organisation interim target-1 is not much of an improvement compared with our 21-year-old air quality objectives, and far from what is needed to drive air quality improvements.

For example, the annual mean concentration (the 12-month average) for PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers) specified in the interim target-1 is 70 micrograms per cubic metre, while our air quality objectives specified an annual mean of 55 micrograms per cubic metre.

International and local studies have shown that, among all the criteria pollutants, particulate matter is by far the most significant contributor to both the chronic and acute health risk.

Let us not forget just how far behind Hong Kong’s particulate matter standard is when compared with European cities. In Europe, the PM10 standard is now 40 micrograms per cubic metre, while the WHO air quality guideline of 20 micrograms per cubic metre will take effect in 2010.

After all the hype and public expectation in Hong Kong about strengthening our air quality objectives, a recommendation to take a backward step to 70 micrograms or staying with our outdated 55 micrograms is just unbelievable.

We must set targets that protect public health, and not arrive at a target which is dictated by some limited vision of what can or cannot be done in a few years.

What is being set is a loose target which shows the government is abrogating its responsibility to push hard for a policy of public health protection.

This is wrong-headed and dangerous because we will all be paying the price with our health.

Alexis Lau, director, atmospheric research centre, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Wong Tze-wai, professor, community and family medicine, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Methane Emissions On The Rise

The Australian | October 30, 2008

EMISSIONS of the potent greenhouse gas methane are on the rise again – but this time it’s nothing to do with farting cows.

Scientists have warned climbing methane levels may speed up global warming.

Levels of methane, the second-worst greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, had plateaued but recently started to rise again.

Dr Paul Fraser from the CSIRO said increasing methane levels appeared to be caused by the melting of Arctic ice, which was opening up more wetlands to the sky.

These wetlands are releasing methane.

Cows and sheep, that burp, breathe and fart out methane gas, are a major source of methane emissions, but apparently, are not to blame for the increase.

Dr Fraser said the rise in methane levels was a concern.

“This is not good news for future global warming,” he said.

HK And Guangdong Air Quality Shows Slight Decline On Last Year

Joyce Ng – SCMP | Updated on Oct 30, 2008

Air quality in Guangdong and Hong Kong in the first half of the year was marginally worse than a year earlier, data from a regional network of monitoring stations shows.

Only three stations showed improvements over the same period last year, and pollution levels at all 16 exceeded the national air quality standard set for general residential areas part of the time.

Air quality was unsatisfactory 28.07 per cent of the time on average, compared with 27.68 per cent in the corresponding period last year. A Hong Kong government source said it would not be scientific to compare two years’ data and conclude air pollution had not improved.

The three stations which showed improvement were in Guangzhou and Foshan. The other 13, including the three stations in Hong Kong – in Tsuen Wan, at Tung Chung near the airport on Lantau and at Tap Mun, or Grass Island, in Mirs Bay off the north coast of Sai Kung – all had worse readings than a year earlier.

The government source ascribed the improvement in air quality in Foshan to the relocation of highly polluting ceramics factories. The worst air quality was recorded in March because winds were too light to dispel pollution, the source said. Coastal areas had better air quality because summer ocean winds dispersed pollutants. Regional air quality is graded from 1 (the best) to 5 (the worst).

Respirable suspended particulates were a bigger problem than the three other pollutants measured – ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

In parts of Guangzhou, Foshan and Huizhou, the level of respirable suspended particles of a diameter of 10 microns or more (known as PM10) exceeded safe levels between 20 and 29 per cent of the time, or for 25 to 47 days in six months.

The monitoring network was set up by Guangdong’s Environmental Protection Bureau and the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau in Hong Kong three years ago.

Despite a lack of significant improvement in air quality since then, the source said the government was confident of achieving some of the 2010 targets jointly set for emissions reductions. As well as factories relocating, vehicles in some Guangdong cities had switched to cleaner fuels, the source said.

Alexis Lau Kai-hon, an atmospheric scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said his research showed there had been hardly any improvement in air quality in the region since 2004, although there was no clear sign either that it was getting worse.

He agreed that joint monitoring was beneficial, but urged the mainland authorities to release data on a daily basis instead of once every six months to allow for better research.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager for campaign group Friends of the Earth, said the closure of some factories on the mainland and the relocation of others might have helped improve air quality in some places, but it was time governments stepped up efforts to reduce roadside pollution.

“One major source for PM10 is vehicular emissions. There is plenty of room for mainland authorities to reduce roadside pollution,” he said.

“For Hong Kong, power plants’ emissions reductions have had an effect, but there’s a need to replace old heavy diesel vehicles more quickly.”

Emissions At Least On Par With US: Beijing Admits It May Be World’s Top Polluter

Shi Jiangtao in Beijing – SCMP | Updated on Oct 30, 2008

A top climate official has admitted the mainland’s greenhouse gas emissions are at least on a par with those of the United States, but said the unfolding financial crisis was presenting new economic and technological opportunities to restructure the international campaign against global warming.

Xie Zhenhua , deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, also said yesterday rich countries must take the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing money and technology to developing countries.

It was the first time the central government had publicly acknowledged that China may have passed the US to become the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter.

“Based on information we have at hand, our total emissions are roughly the same as the US,” Mr Xie said at the launch of the country’s first white paper on tackling climate change.

International research institutes and experts have said for two years that China’s output of carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas, had surpassed that of the US, given that the latest data on China’s greenhouse gas emissions was from 1994.

But Mr Xie said: “Whether or not we have surpassed the US is not in itself important.” He repeated China’s stance that it was only fair to consider historical and accumulated emissions in determining whether developed or developing countries should play a bigger role in the global fight against climate change.

The white paper says: “Developed countries should be responsible for their accumulative emissions and current high per capita emissions, and take the lead in reducing emissions, in addition to providing financial support and transferring technologies to developing countries.”

Mr Xie said China’s per-capita emissions for its 1.3 billion people remain much lower than those of rich countries, and was about a fifth of the US average. “As China is in the process of industrialisation and urbanisation, it is fairly natural that the country’s greenhouse gas emissions grow very fast,” he said.

He also said it was not fair for China to take responsibility for emissions generated on behalf of countries that consumed Chinese exports, which accounted for 24 per cent of the country’s total emissions.

Both the white paper and Mr Xie played down the growing criticism over China’s refusal to accept a mandatory target in cutting emissions.

“There is no doubt that under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries must take the lead in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Xie said.

Under the UN-sponsored treaty, developing countries are not obliged to accept mandatory caps, but the US has refused to ratify it, citing the framework’s failure to hold China and India more responsible.

“But regardless of the results of international negotiations and how much developed countries honour their commitments, China from its own perspective must realise sustainable development,” Mr Xie said. “We must save energy, raise energy efficiency, develop renewable energies and adopt measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.”

He said the financial turmoil should be viewed as an opportunity for China as well as the whole world to carry out economic restructuring, promoting environmentally friendly technology and cutting pollution.

“Tackling climate change and the financial crisis is not contradictory,” he said. “We will seize the opportunity to increase domestic demand and funding on energy efficiency. We will have to solve climate change and environmental problems through development.”

Mr Xie said developed countries should contribute at least 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic products to help developing countries fight global warming.

Analysts said the release of the policy paper as well as recent remarks by mainland officials were part of Beijing’s strategy amid intense negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

An international climate change seminar on technology transfer organised by the UN and China will be held in Beijing next week, and delegates from more than 190 countries will participate in another key UN conference on climate change in Poznan, Poland, in December.

Yang Ailun , from Greenpeace China, said the white paper was basically a review of the government’s achievements in tackling climate change in the past few years.

“While it may not have much new information, it is clearly aimed at highlighting China’s progress in cutting emissions ahead of international negotiations,” she said.

A Good Starting Point For UN Climate Change Talks

SCMP – Updated on Oct 30, 2008

In releasing its position paper on climate change, China has spelled out two national imperatives that appear to conflict. The nation’s leaders recognise the urgent need to combat climate change and reverse environmental degradation caused by rapid industrialisation. But they have also vowed not to let such efforts impede the economic growth necessary to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

The government has little choice. Climate change is already causing crop failure, drought and floods on the mainland. These disasters have a high economic cost, and that cost is set to mount in coming years. Inaction is not an option.

The conundrum is not unique. Other developing nations also face the challenge of balancing economic growth with environmental protection. Climate change recognises no national boundaries. Their problems are everyone’s problems. China, however, plays a pivotal role because, by many measures, it has exceeded the United States as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases.

Understandably, the rich nations want the poor countries – especially China and India – to clean up, and are exerting increasing pressure on them to do so. The wealthy economies have moved into a post-industrial phase; their most advanced technologies are environment-friendly and their citizens, by and large, live in much greener and cleaner places. The rich nations say this is the future towards which emerging economies must move. The question is how – and who will pay for it?

Beijing is proposing a solution with which other emerging economies would no doubt concur. It argues that rich countries should devote between 0.7 per cent and 1 per cent of their gross domestic product to helping poorer nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions. This would amount to more than US$300 billion a year from the Group of Seven countries alone. Most of the money would be spent on technology transfers. This would certainly help combat climate change, but the rich nations are unlikely to accept such a high price tag; many believe it is not their responsibility. Moreover, western investors, companies and governments jealously guard their proprietary technology and will not so easily share it. China and other developing countries know this, so the issue is likely to be the most contentious as they enter intense international negotiations next year over a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012. The protocol does not bind poor nations to achieve targets for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. The European Union and United States will insist the emerging economies accept emissions caps under the successor treaty.

The timing of the release of China’s latest position paper is no accident. Next month, Beijing will host a United Nations conference on climate change; it is working to buttress its international position. And its argument carries weight. Most of the greenhouse gases now trapped in the atmosphere, and causing climate change, were produced by the rich countries when they were industrialising. It is, therefore, both in their own interests and that of historical justice that they pay a substantial part of the cleanup costs. Beijing’s proposal may turn out to be too much for rich countries to accept. Still, it establishes a starting point for negotiations.

We live in one world. Nations rich and poor alike have a responsibility to preserve and protect it. All sides need to devise a fair successor to Kyoto which shares the costs and generates benefits for future generations.

China Says Greenhouse Gases Catch Up With U.S.

Emma Graham-Harrison and Chris Buckley – Reuters | 29 Oct 2008

BEIJING, Oct 29 (Reuters) – China’s greenhouse gas emissions have caught up with the United States and will not fall any time soon, a top Chinese official said on Wednesday, while warning of a huge economic blow from global warming.

The comments from Xie Zhenhua, a deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission who steers climate change policy, marked China’s first official acknowledgement that it could already be the world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluter.

Many experts believe China’s output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels, has already outstripped the United States, for over a century the world’s biggest emitter.

Until now, however, Chinese officials have hedged on the issue and have released no new government data on emissions growth for the past 14 years. Nor did Xie give specific numbers.

“Based on information we have at hand, our total emissions are about the same as the United States,” he told a news conference to release a government paper on climate change.

“Whether or not we have surpassed the United States is not in itself important,” he added, noting that rich countries during their own economic take-offs had produced nearly all the greenhouse gases from human activity already in the atmosphere.

Official acknowledgement that China could be the biggest emitter is unlikely to shift Beijing’s position on climate change. But it underscores the giddying expansion of the nation’s power plants, factories and vehicles, and may add international pressure on it as the world enters an intense phase of negotiations over a new global warming pact.

Even several years ago, scientists expected China to surpass the United States in CO2 emissions only in 2019 or later.

The U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has estimated the United States emitted 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon from burning fossil fuels in 2007, compared to China’s 1.8 billion tonnes.

Total world emissions were about 8.5 billion tonnes.


Beijing has said it wants to combat climate change yet ensure China’s economic take-off is not dragged down. Xie’s comments and the government “white paper” reflected the uneasy fit between those concerns.

China faces shrinking harvests, worsening droughts in some regions, worsening floods in others, and melting glaciers as average global temperatures rise, the report warns.

“Climate change has already brought real threats to China’s ecological system and economic and social development,” said Xie.

But the report released by Xie also says China will nonetheless increase emissions of carbon dioxide, as it seeks to lift hundreds of millions of its poor into prosperity.

“China will strive for rational growth of energy demand,” it states. “However, its coal-dominated energy mix cannot be substantially changed in the near future, thus making the control of greenhouse gases rather difficult.”

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap solar radiation, threatening to heat the atmosphere to levels that scientists warn could unleash disastrous disruption.

China will be at the heart of efforts to forge a successor to the current Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012. Governments hope to reach agreement by the end of 2009.

Under the current Protocol, poor nations do not assume targets to curb emissions. But the European Union wants developing nations to sign on to firmer goals, and Washington has refused to ratify Kyoto partly because it says the treaty is ineffective without Beijing’s acceptance of mandatory caps.

Xie pointed out that China’s per capita emissions of its 1.3 billion people remain much lower than rich countries’, and about a fifth of the U.S. average per person.

He also said about a fifth of the country’s emissions came from making goods for export, and called on consumer nations to shoulder some responsibility for this.

On Tuesday, a Chinese official said developed countries should devote 1 percent of their economic worth to helping developing countries combat climate change.

Xie offered a more precise estimate of how much money China expects rich countries to give poor ones to fight climate change.

“I think it would be okay if at least 0.7 percent of developed countries’ GDPs is used to help developing countries respond to climate change,” he said.

This would mean a total $284 billion a year if all members of the OECD (Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development) paid up based on the size of their economies in 2007. (Editing by Nick Macfie and Roger Crabb)

Report Announced By Pearl River Delta Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network | 29 Oct 08

The Environmental Protection Department ( EPD ) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong Province ( GDEPB ) today ( October 29 ) announced the report on the monitoring results of four major air pollutants ( sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and respirable suspended particulates ) measured by the Pearl River Delta Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network ( Network ).

The report, which covers the period between January and June 2008, is available on both the GDEPB’s website ( ) and EPD’s website ( ).

In general, the overall concentrations of most pollutants were generally higher in the winter months ( January to March ). Lower concentration levels were recorded as summer approached ( June ). Apart from heavier rainfall and higher mixing layer, the relatively clean maritime air stream prevailed in the Pearl River Delta ( PRD ) region under the influence of southern monsoon and also accounted for a lower level of pollution in summer time. The air quality was better in the coastal areas than in the central and northern areas of the region in the first half of 2008, most probably as a result of relatively more favourable conditions for dispersion of pollutants in the former.

Overall, 72% of the Regional Air Quality Index as recorded by the network in the first half of 2008 were in Grade I or II, meaning the pollutant concentrations are within Class 2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards ( NAAQS ). Intermittent high level of pollutants exceeding Class 2 NAAQS ( applicable to general residential areas ) was recorded in all monitoring locations of the network in the reporting period, which was mainly triggered by meteorological conditions unfavourable to pollutant dispersion.

During the reporting period, the network operated smoothly in accordance with the Quality Assurance/Quality Control ( QA/QC ) Operating Procedures, which ensure that air quality data from the monitoring stations are of a high degree of precision and accuracy,

The network is one of the major achievements of co-operation between the two sides in environmental protection. It comprises 16 automatic ambient monitoring stations scattering over the region, 13 of which are in the PRD Economic Zone – Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Shunde, Huiyang, Panyu and Conghua – and three are in Tsuen Wan, Tung Chung and Tap Mun of Hong Kong. The Guangdong Provincial Environmental Monitoring Centre and EPD are respectively responsible for the co-ordination, management and operation of the monitoring stations of the two sides.

The environmental monitoring authorities of the two sides will continue to monitor the regional air quality and regularly announce the latest monitoring results. The monitoring results for the whole of 2008 are expected to be available in April 2009.

Black Cloud Has Silver Lining

SCMP | Updated on Oct 28, 2008

The global slowdown has resulted in the closure of a number of factories. As many of these factories were polluters, this has meant cleaner air.

Also, as the credit crunch affects individuals, many have stopped driving to save money and are using public transport. This has led to a reduction in emissions.

The economic tsunami has brought tough times to us all but, in terms of the environment, we should see something good coming from this.

I hope that if the air does become cleaner, that when the economy improves, we will try and keep it that way.

We have been through crises before but, just like the meltdown in 1997, we will emerge from this.

As I said, I hope we can learn from our mistakes regarding the environment, so that climate change does not get worse.

Harina Fong, Wong Tai Sin

Pollution-Reduction Goals Still Far Away, Admits Official

Agence France-Presse in Beijing, Updated on Oct 29, 2008

Mainland is having trouble meeting energy efficiency and pollution-reduction goals, but the government remains determined to reach the targets, a top official said on Wednesday.

Vice-Minister of Planning Xie Zhenhua also said Beijing will consider controls on the greenhouse gas emissions of its worst polluting industries if the rich world will hand over clean technology to keep poorer nations competitive.

China has a target of reducing the amount of energy it consumes per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent over the five years to 2010.

It has also vowed to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions, a key air pollutant, and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, by 10 per cent each from 2005 levels.

“Our work over the next three years will be very difficult, but the government will not waver in assessing the situation in accordance with these goals,” Mr Xie said. Mr Xie also signalled Beijing’s first nod of approval to the “sectoral approach” to containing industrial emissions at the launch of a policy paper on how the country plans to tackle global warming.

Mainland officials have previously denounced the “sectoral approach” as a scheme for rich, high-tech nations to gain a competitive edge by imposing extra costs on rising challengers in sectors, such as steel, concrete and power.

But Beijing is pushing rich nations to transfer more pollution-cutting technology to poorer nations undergoing emissions-intensive industrialisation, and Mr Xie suggested a focus on polluting industries could satisfy both sides.

“China believes that using a sectoral approach is an important measure for implementing emissions reductions in every country. We can decide this for industries with high emissions levels and then transform the technology that these industries use to cut emissions,” Mr Xie said.

“But in whose hands is this technology? Most of it is in the hands of developed nations. If they take this technology and give it to developing nations, it will without a doubt be able to resolve a large amount of the greenhouse gas emission problem.”

Varying proposals for a sectoral approach to curbing emissions involve setting fixed caps, broader reduction guidelines or incentive systems for firms.

Mr Xie did not delve into such specifics or say which industries could be targeted.

But he stressed that up to a quarter of the country’s emissions bill came from manufacturing goods for export, and urged consumer nations to shoulder some responsibility for this pollution.

“Because we are at the low end of the industrial chain, transferred emissions from goods manufactured from exports stand at between 14.5 per cent and 24 per cent of the total.”

“We are footing other people’s bills,” added Mr Xie, who is vice-chairman of the energy and climate-change policy making National Development and Reform Commission.

Mr Xie said he would like rich nations to spend the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of their economy each year on funding cleaner technology to help poor countries skip the dirtiest phase of industrialisation and urbanisation.

He cited the complicated transformers and bearings used in wind turbines as an example of a key technology that could help mainland rapidly expand an already booming sector that makes a clear contribution to cutting emissions.