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October 29th, 2008:

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.