Further environmental improvements for China

A massive ozone-fighting grant, an increase in environmental expenditure, and more reliable and open reporting are among the developments announced in China.

The United Nations has given China a $25 million grant to help phase out CFCs as the country is the largest producer and consumer of ozone-depleting substances in the world. The money will be used to set up factories expected to produce an annual 10,000 tonnes of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), a less ozone-damaging substance, Chinese media reported on 15 January. By 2005, it is estimated China will reportedly need 10,000 tonnes of HFC for use in cars and other products. That figure is set to double by 2010, the same year that Chinese production of CFCs is predicted to stop. However, scientists say HFCs are extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), Xie Zhenhua, has announced an increase in federal environmental protection expenditure to 1.2% of GDP, up from the current level of 0.93%. Zhenhua said the country’s efforts for the coming five years will focus on finding solutions to water and air pollution in urban areas – Chinese cities occupy eight of the top 10 most polluted in the world – and noise and acid rain. The country will also make efforts to ensure sufficient drinking water for the people, Zhenhua said (see later story).

The new measures that Zhenhua announced include:

  • the building of 50 new cities and 200 towns as models in environmental protection;
  • a 10% reduction in the discharge of current levels of major pollutants by 2005;
  • one hundred cities releasing daily air quality reports and 42 key cities will have air quality forecasts;
  • reports every 10 days on water quality in major cities;
  • pollution prevention and controlling programs to be launched on the upper reaches of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers and on the mainstream of the Songhua River and;
  • the promotion of green products and environmentally friendly consumption.

The amount to be spent by SEPA over the next five years is reported to be 200 billion yuan, or $24 billion (see related story).

Local news has also reported that Beijing is likely to drop out of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world, as the city fights to be chosen as host for the 2008 Olympic Games, and spends $12 billion on a massive clean-up operation. The capital’s heavily-polluted air, choked by fumes from industry and domestic coal fires was cited as one of the main reasons for the city failing to get the 2000 Olympics.

“The environment in Beijing will be significantly improved by 2005 and the living quality of the 12 million residents will also be greatly lifted as a result,” Vice-Mayor Wang Guangtao, who is in charge of the city’s environmental protection and pollution control, announced on 12 January. Guangtao said that ‘clean’ energy will account for over 75% of the total energy consumed, and that under a five-year pollution control plan, residents in Beijing will enjoy fresh air and smog-free skies for at least 255 days each year by 2005, about 91 days more than 2000. The Vice-Mayor said the city plans to cut the total amount of pollutant discharge by 30% by 2005. Recently, the government announced that the capital was to invest increasingly in geothermal power, solar energy, bio-energy and wind power to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (see related story).

Among the measures Wang announced for a greener and healthier Beijing are:

  • an increase in the consumption of natural gas from 1 billion cubic metres in 2000 to 3 billion cubic metres in 2005;
  • ninety percent of sewage to be treated before discharge by 2007, from 45% in 2000;
  • the relocation of many polluting firms out of the city, and construction of offices or accommodation and;
  • at least 30 parks.

In a separate move, China’s first emergency hotline for environmental protection has been launched in Shanghai. The hotline will open around-the-clock to provide assistance to local citizens bothered by environmental problems such as illegal discharges of pollutants. There will also be rewards for those denouncing polluters.

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