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ENVIRONMENT

By Yang Ge / Jun 19, 2020 01:29 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Don’t count out hydrogen-fueled cars just yet in China’s move to cleaner vehicles.

That’s the word from Beijing, where the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has just rolled out its latest draft regulations governing the transport and storage of the hydrogen fuel that powers such cars. The latest document has added language that could pave the way for transport and storage of liquefied hydrogen that is cheaper than pressurized gas now most commonly used.

Experts estimate that in the current market, the hydrogen needed to power a fuel cell car in China costs about 70 yuan ($10) per kilogram. But they estimate that needs to come down to less than 40 yuan before hydrogen-powered cars can be truly competitive with traditional gas-powered ones.

That’s where liquefied hydrogen comes in, offering potential major savings that could sharply reduce the price of hydrogen fuel. Researchers at China’s National Development and Reform Commission estimate the cost of transporting such fuel in liquid form is just one-eighth that of transporting it in the pressurized gas form now most widely used. Transport of liquefied hydrogen is already widely used in developed nations like the U.S., Germany and Japan.

The Housing and Urban-Rural Development Ministry isn’t the only one tackling the issue. Last year, a national committee solicited comments on draft technical requirements for the safe transport and storage of liquid hydrogen. A person involved with that effort told Caixin the draft is still being modified due to delays caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

China is working hard to put more clean energy vehicles on its roads in an effort to clean up the nation’s polluted air. Most of that effort has focused on electric and hybrid vehicles, though that sector has moved into the slow lane these days after Beijing sharply reduced government subsidies last year in an effort to make producers more self-sufficient.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

Related: Toyota to Develop Hydrogen Fuel Cell with Chinese Companies


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ENVIRONMENT

By Ding Yi / May 25, 2020 04:46 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Amazon has announced its first renewable energy project in China as part of ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon emissions.

The U.S. ecommerce giant’s China project will be a 100 megawatt (MW) solar power farm in the eastern province of Shandong, which is expected to generate 128,000 megawatt hours of clean energy every year, according to a company statement released last week.

Apart from the China project, Amazon also said that it will build a 105 MW solar farm in New South Wales, Australia, and three in the United States, of which two will be located in Ohio with respective capacities of 200 MW and 80 MW. There will also be a facility based in Virginia with 130 MW of capacity.

Once operational, the five solar power facilities will supply nearly 1.2 million megawatt hours of renewable energy to the company’s fulfillment networks and Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers, the statement said, without providing details on when the construction will be completed.

In September 2019, Amazon announced a massive commitment to combat climate change officially named The Climate Pledge, under which the company aims to reduce its carbon emissions with the ultimate target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040.

So far, Amazon has unveiled 31 utility-scale wind and solar renewable energy projects and 60 solar rooftops on its fulfilment and sorting centers globally. U.S. tech giant Apple has also previously announced plans to invest in solar and wind power production in China.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (dingyi@caixin.com)

Related: Alibaba Cloud Consolidates Market Share But Struggles Against Western Peers


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By Matthew Walsh / Jan 16, 2020 01:42 PM / Environment

Beijing and Shanghai have witnessed dramatic improvements in air quality so far this winter but progress has slowed and even reversed in many other parts of China, according to a report released Thursday by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), an environmental research organization.

An uptick in coal and oil consumption as well as rising industrial output drove pollution increases outside the greater Beijing and Shanghai regions, which the government considers high-priority areas for air quality. In particular, southern and northeastern provinces saw significant increases in PM2.5, ultrafine particles that can pass through the lungs into the bloodstream and damage organs in the human body.

The report surveys year-on-year changes in air quality from October through December 2019, the first three months of China’s official winter season. It comes as China grapples with an economic slowdown that has spurred a fallback onto coal-fired power generation and other highly polluting industries.

“As coal and oil consumption have increased in the past two years, progress on air quality has relied entirely on better filters and moving industrial production away from priority areas. Continued improvements require accelerating the clean-energy transition,” said CREA lead analyst Lauri Myllyvirta.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

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Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: China’s Big Cities Get Cleaner Air, But at What Cost?


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By Lu Yutong / Jan 09, 2020 01:43 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s government is reportedly considering scaling back or even abolishing subsidies to the offshore wind power sector in 2022, in the latest sign that Beijing intends to cut financial support to renewable energy firms as their technology becomes more commercially competitive.

However, while national subsidies for new offshore wind farms might be scrapped, Beijing would still encourage regional-level governments to subsidize construction of local offshore wind farms, state-run media outlet Shanghai Securities News reported Tuesday. Those projects are typically built in shallow coastal waters with steady winds.

Previously, China subsidized various forms of renewable energy to offset their higher costs compared to traditional forms of energy such as coal and gas. But that money is becoming less relevant as the costs of renewables continues to fall and the industry becomes more economically competitive. Last year, the central government cancelled subsidies for the solar power industry.

An analysis by BloombergNEF published in October found that global benchmark prices for offshore wind energy had fallen 32% in the year prior.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

Contact reporter Yutong Lu (yutonglu@caixin.com)

Related: Solar Power Fades With End of State Support, but Seen Stabilizing in 2020

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By Zhou Tailai and Matthew Walsh / Dec 31, 2019 01:16 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s agriculture ministry said Monday it plans to grant biosafety certificates to two domestically produced, genetically modified (GM) corn varieties and one soybean variety, the first time in 10 years that the country has issued such certificates to staple food grains.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) said it intends to issue the certificates to an insect- and weed killer-resistant corn strain known as DBN9936, which is produced by Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, and a similar variety, called “double-stacked 12-5,” co-developed by Hangzhou Ruifeng Biotech and Zhejiang University.

The weed killer-resistant SHZD32-01 soybean, developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, will also become China’s first GM soybean crop to obtain the biosafety certificate, as long as the plan passes unscathed through a 15-day period of public consultation.

The decision to issue the certificates to the different crops, hints that Beijing is moving ahead with plans to commercialize GM crops. The country has plowed vast sums of money into GM research and awarded biosafety certificates to several corn and rice varieties in 2009, but has avoided a push to commercialize them amid safety concerns from consumers.

Also on Monday, MARA approved a new variety of U.S.-developed GM soybeans for import, a step that could be a boon in upcoming trade negotiations with Washington.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: China OKs Imports of More Genetically Modified Crops

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By Lu Yutong / Dec 09, 2019 04:05 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

PetroChina is looking to produce 12 billion cubic meters of shale gas next year and is predicting 7.8 billion to 8 billion cubic meters of output for 2019, the company's vice president Li Luguang said at an energy conference Thursday.

The Chinese government wants to increase annual production capacity of the fuel to 30 billion cubic meters by 2020, according to a plan published by National Energy Administration in 2016.

Shale gas deposits lie underground within layers of rock and require extraction using methods such as “fracking,” where high-pressure liquids are injected into the earth to blast the rocks apart. Beijing has been pushing the use of the method in recent years in an effort to increase the country’s energy security, providing support that includes a 30% tax cut for shale gas producers for the April 2018 to March 2021 period.

Fracking is controversial due to environmental and health concerns, and the technique has been linked to earthquakes.

A series of deadly tremors that shook Rong county in Sichuan province in China’s southwest earlier this year sparked a public outcry that prompted the local government to suspend nearby fracking operations.

Sichuan sits on what is thought to be the largest deposit of shale gas in the world.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

A previous version of this story wrongly named PetroChina as its controlling shareholder, China National Petroleum Corp.

Contact reporter Yutong Lu (yutonglu@caixin.com)

Related: In Depth: Earthquakes Are the Latest Setback to China’s Fracking Ambitions


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By Liu Yukun and Denise Jia / Dec 04, 2019 07:03 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China raised its 2025 sales target for new-energy vehicles (NEVs) to a quarter of all car sales from a previously planned 20% as the industry shows signs of slowing after steep cuts to government subsidies.

In a new draft plan on NEV industry development issued Wednesday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) also put forward radically reduced requirements for NEVs’ energy consumption.

According to the draft, the average fuel consumption of new plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles in China is required to drop to 2 liters per 100 kilometers by 2025, and the average power consumption of new purely electric passenger vehicles has to drop to 12 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers. This is the first time for China to measure the power consumption of purely electric cars in terms of electricity consumption. The government previously measured both purely electric cars and conventional cars based on fuel consumption.

The 12 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers requirement is a hard-to-reach target, according to a report by China Automotive Technology and Research Center. The report projects the average power consumption of purely electric cars to drop to about 13.85 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers.

During the first 10 months of 2019, China sold 940,000 million NEVs, which include plug-in hybrids, battery-only electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells. They accounted for 4.6% of vehicle sales, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The MIIT had aimed to sell a total of 35 million cars per year by 2025, in which NEVs would account for 20%. But industry participants have been pessimistic about the target.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com)

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By Yang Ge / Nov 22, 2019 02:40 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

An uphill road.

That’s how some executives at a major auto show in South China are describing the task of selling new energy vehicles in China. Beijing is putting huge pressure on the auto industry to sell more such vehicles, mostly electric and hybrids. But consumers just aren’t biting.

Carmakers are racing right now to sell new-energy vehicles, or NEVs, in a bid to conform with new quotas requiring all manufacturers to get certain percentages of their sales from NEVs in the coming years. The problem is that consumer demand just isn’t there yet.

Of the nearly 900,000 NEVs sold in China this year through the end of September, just over 100,000 went to consumers, said Wang Yongqing, president of General Motors Shanghai joint venture, speaking at the Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition in southern Guangdong province. Most of the rest are going to fleet operators, such as city bus and taxi services.

With government pressure on carmakers now the biggest factor driving the sector’s development, the absence of an NEV component means such manufacturers simply “can’t pass through the gate,” Wang said.

The situation at present looks particularly bleak, with the recent scaling back of government incentives for NEV buyers causing sales to plunge. NEV sales reached just 75,000 in October, down by nearly half from a year earlier, following a 34% decline in September.

Wang said the industry faces several major obstacles, including high battery costs and low resale values. Consumers are unlikely to embrace the technology without changes to those parts of the equation, which could make it “very, very difficult” for the sector to develop, he added.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com; twitter: @youngchinabiz https://twitter.com/youngchinabiz)

Related: Electric-Car Maker Xpeng Raises $400 Million


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By Zhang Zizhu and Ren Qiuyu / Nov 13, 2019 12:36 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The Yangtze River Delta and the Fenwei Plain regions in China should improve their air quality readings by 2% and 3%, respectively, during the 2019-2020 autumn and winter seasons, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced.

The two regions have been tasked with lowering the average daily concentrations of PM2.5, particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less that can cause a litany of health complaints. The autumn and winter period runs from Oct. 1, 2019 until March 31, 2020, the time of year that typically sees higher pollution due to heating and high industry activity.

Over the same period last year, 10 cities in the Yangtze River Delta region failed to hit their PM2.5 reduction targets, with five cities’ PM2.5 averages actually increasing from the previous year.

The Yangtze River Delta region, which includes cities such as Shanghai, Wuxi, and Hangzhou, and the Fenwei Plain, which encompasses an area of about 150,000 square kilometers across Shanxi, Shaanxi, and parts of Henan provinces, have gotten off easy this year compared with the targets for the 28-city region that includes Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei province and surrounding areas. That region must decrease its average PM2.5 concentration by 4% this autumn and winter season.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: China’s Big Cities Get Cleaner Air, But at What Cost?

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By Matthew Walsh / Nov 11, 2019 04:38 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

As China’s e-commerce giants generate hundreds of billions of yuan in sales from Monday’s “Double 11” shopping extravaganza, environmental groups are reminding consumers that online shopping comes at a cost to the planet.

The country’s e-commerce and express delivery sectors used a whopping 9.4 million tons of packing materials last year, with the courier sector producing an estimated 13 million tons of carbon emissions, according to a report by three environmental NGOs whose release was timed to coincide with the world’s largest shopping fest. A business-as-usual scenario will see both sectors churn out an estimated 41.3 million tons of packaging annually by 2025, the report said.

Although some 80% of paper-based packaging waste gets recycled, plastic packaging is not recycled 95% of the time, the report found. In urban areas, most plastic mixes with other kinds of solid waste and ends up in either landfills or incinerators.

The report, co-published by Greenpeace East Asia, Break Free From Plastic China, and the All-China Environment Federation, also takes aim at the “limited” efforts made by e-commerce and delivery companies to address their mounting waste problems. “Superficially” green initiatives like narrowing the plastic tape used on parcels and rolling out digital ordering systems “obviously do not get to the core of the issue,” the study found.

The report makes a number of recommendations on how to reduce packaging waste. Lawmakers should speed up legislation demanding or incentivizing sustainable packaging practices like reusable containers, and the introduction of national standards could clamp down on wasteful behaviors like overpackaging and the use of harmful or single-use materials, researchers say.

In addition, they suggest that companies recognize they are responsible for the entire life cycles of the packaging materials they use, and that consumers actively seek information about the sustainability of the delivery services they use.

Tang Damin, a Beijing-based plastics campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia, urged Chinese tech companies to adopt more creative approaches to packaging waste. “I’m curious who will be the first to step forward with a bold idea,” he told Caixin. “Chinese people aren’t the consumerist stereotype that ‘Singles Day’ sells,” he said, using another name for Double 11. “They want something more.”

Tang also called on the government to adapt its direct approach to nudge the e-commerce sector toward greener packaging practices. “The state’s hands-on role will be a huge factor in industry response,” he said. “Currently, there’s no real requirement for e-commerce or delivery companies to address this waste problem.”

When asked about the environmental impact of its packaging waste, Cainiao, the Alibaba-controlled logistics affiliate that handles deliveries for the e-commerce giant’s shopping platforms, told Caixin that the company values sustainability and is working to make the sector more environmentally friendly.

Cainiao has already rolled out a number of successful initiatives to combat packaging waste, including its self-developed smart-packaging algorithm, e-shipping labels, and cooperative agreements with merchants to reduce plastic use, the company added.

JD.com, China’s second-largest e-commerce company, declined to comment directly on the study. But it referred Caixin to an October announcement that the company had joined the Science Based Targets Initiative, a global campaign designed to promote corporate action on climate change.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Alibaba Increases Stake in Cainiao Network to 63% From 51%

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By Dave Yin / Nov 09, 2019 01:27 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s hundreds of electric car makers, already fighting for survival, must now dedicate resources to the post-consumer process.

China’s industry regulator called on manufacturers of new-energy vehicles (NEVs) and others to set up and standardize recycling plants for batteries of electric cars. These facilities will be shared by NEV manufacturers, battery makers, wrecking yards, integrated companies and more.

Guidelines published Thursday (link in Chinese) by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) outline two types of recycling facilities that the industry must establish, depending on the need, although they must both be located in administrative areas where companies sell electric cars – starting at prefecture-level cities.

Smaller, “collection-style” recycling centers are for temporary storage and are limited to holding a total of 5 tons of batteries, whereas larger “concentrated storage-style” plants will have a minimum capacity of 30 tons and are designed for long-term storage. The larger centers are required in areas where NEV companies keep more than 8,000 vehicles or where existing recycling facilities lack storage capacity and safety standards.

Dedicated electric car battery recycling facilities are required to collect, sort, store, package and ship worn-out units, though they are forbidden from disassembling them for any purpose aside from conducting safety inspections. They are also expected to use digital tools to trace and collect data on their inventory and hand the information over to manufacturers, which must in turn report recycling data in a “timely fashion,” the ministry said.

Existing facilities were given six months to meet the guidelines’ requirements.

The directive updates 2018 provisions on NEV battery recycling, in which the ministry also urged the auto and battery industries to jointly build recycling pilot projects in several major Chinese cities. However, this week’s mandate follows a government commitment to phase out subsidies for all types of NEVs, which include all-electric, fuel cell and hybrid cars, to pare back the roughly 500 companies that have sprung up in response to government grants.

BYD, China’s biggest NEV maker, reported an 89% drop in third-quarter earnings and warned that profit could fall as much as 43% in 2019. BAIC BluePark New Energy Technology, China’s biggest maker of all-electric cars, also forecast a 2019 loss.

Contact reporter Dave Yin (davidyin@caixin.com)

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By Zhou Tailai, Zhan Kun, and Ren Qiuyu / Nov 01, 2019 12:50 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Bilateral trade between the United States and China is responsible for 2.5% of global shipping carbon-dioxide emissions and 4.8% of premature deaths caused by air pollution emissions from shipping, according to a new report published in online journal Nature Sustainability.

The research, led by Liu Huan of the School of Environment at Tsinghua University, examined trade data, ship emission models, and satellite-observed vessel activities to evaluate shipping emissions and its impact on human health. The paper also developed a methodology for determining the responsibility of trade pairs and ships for carbon dioxide emissions.

The study found that the emissions from shipping between the U.S. and China had contributed to pollution all over the world, with a notable contribution to airborne PM2.5 — particulate matter considered particularly harmful to health — around the coastal regions of China and Japan.

In 2016, approximately 5,700 people died prematurely due to air pollution from China-U.S. bilateral shipping emissions. Of these deaths, 64% occurred in China and only 2% in the United States. The remaining 34% were in Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam.

Liu told Caixin that the very small number of premature deaths in the U.S. is due to low-emission policies for ships entering the area 200 nautical miles around the coast that require ships to switch to clean fuel. China, however, did not establish emissions control zones around its coasts until 2016, so ships were able to use the same fuel as is used out at sea. Additionally, China’s coastal areas are densely populated, leading to a higher number of premature deaths.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

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By Matthew Walsh / Oct 31, 2019 12:37 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Rising sea levels associated with human-influenced climate change could affect three times more people on the Chinese mainland by 2050 than previously thought, a new study claims, with potentially profound implications for highly urbanized coastal areas like Shanghai, Tianjin, and the Pearl River Delta that includes Hong Kong.

Researchers at the New Jersey-based organization Climate Central used a new and more accurate method of determining land elevation and concluded that by midcentury, “land now home to 93 million people (in China) could be lower than the height of the local average coastal flood.” Previous studies based on less-accurate land elevation readings put that figure at approximately 29 million people.

The paper was published Tuesday in the British peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications. The authors’ projections do not factor in future population rises or land lost to coastal erosion.

Researchers looked at predicted sea level rises worldwide and concluded that the greatest effects will be felt in Asia, with people in China most at risk. Three decades from now, central Shanghai — by some estimates the country’s most populous city — would be vulnerable to inundation by ocean flooding without the construction of new coastal defenses.

The same goes both for the northern Chinese municipality of Tianjin, which serves as the main seaport for Beijing, and for the Pearl River Delta region, a densely populated cluster of cities that serves as a key industrial base.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Grassroots Carbon Control Projects Could Help China Beat Paris Pledge: Study

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By Zeng Lingke, Zhang Zizhu, and Ren Qiuyu / Oct 18, 2019 12:22 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Key cities in northern China will aim to cut the average concentration of PM2.5, a toxic air pollutant, by 4% year-on-year during the 2019-2020 fall-winter period, according to an action plan released Wednesday by the country’s Ministry of Environment and Ecology (MEE).

The plan applies to a group of 28 cities, including the Beijing and Tianjin municipalities, from Oct. 1 to March 31 next year, a period that typically sees high rates of air pollution. The 4% target aims to drive down last winter’s average PM2.5 concentration of 82 micrograms per cubic meter, but does not reference the lower pollution levels witnessed during the winter of 2017-2018, when the average PM2.5 concentration was as low as 78 micrograms per cubic meter, a 25% drop on the year prior.

The plan also sets pollution-control requirements for the industrial, energy, and transportation sectors, including “emergency management” measures to cope with severe pollution. The ministry will classify enterprises into three categories depending on the intensity of their emissions, the Wednesday announcement said.

Stay tuned for more on the action plan coming to Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: Grassroots Carbon Control Projects Could Help China Beat Paris Pledge: Study

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By Bloomberg / Oct 16, 2019 10:16 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

(Bloomberg) — There are almost as many places to charge your electric vehicle in Beijing as there are in the entire United States.

China, the world’s biggest market for EVs, has about eight public chargers for each one in the U.S., according to the latest counts. That imbalance likely will become more pronounced as China champions the technology spurring automakers to pivot away from gas guzzlers and accelerates its rollout of electric pumps, enlisting energy giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP along the way.

A new-energy vehicle development plan under consideration by Chinese officials and intended to shape the sector through 2035 will set new goals for boosting the number of public and private chargers, a person familiar with the proposal said in September. The nation is said to be weighing a target for 60% of all automobiles sold to run on electric motors by then.

All told, China’s electric fleet may swell to 162 million vehicles by 2040, according to forecasts by BloombergNEF.

“The availability of charging facilities has been rising pretty quickly,” said Jing Kai, deputy head of the Beijing unit at Qingdao TGOOD Electric, which has the country’s largest network of charging plugs. “The goal is to help EV users charge their cars wherever they go, making it as easy as buying a bottle of water.”

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which oversees policy making for the auto sector, didn’t immediately respond to a faxed query.

EVs are essential to President Xi Jinping’s blueprint for creating a manufacturing superpower by 2025. The nation is building at least 20 “EV towns” for carmakers and ancillary industries, and it spent more than $30 billion subsidizing EV sales. China accounts for more than half of global EV sales.

U.S. automakers are moving at a slower pace, with Tesla Inc. generating most EV sales. The U.S. subsidizes some purchases, yet those benefits phase out, and BNEF forecasts sales will slump this year.

China had 466,101 public charging points by the end of last month, according to the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance. That includes more than 54,000 in Beijing alone.

By comparison, there were 60,652 electric nozzles in the U.S. as of June 25, according to BNEF. California has the most of any state with 19,000 — or about the same amount China adds in an average month.

Contact editor Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

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By Matthew Walsh / Oct 09, 2019 02:07 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A government-backed citizen science app that allows people to report “black and smelly” bodies of water is helping flag overlooked sites of urban water pollution and strengthen accountability for cleaning them up, even as the app’s limited uptake and partial follow-up work hinders remediation efforts.

That’s according to new research published Friday by the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

Researchers found users of the Black and Smelly Waters App were indeed flagging bodies of water with poor water quality, and that the reports appeared to be spurring action. Within months, those targeted tended to see significant falls in chemical oxygen demand — a sign of improved water quality.

The paper builds on previous research published in the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning that concluded growing use of the app “has promise in addressing the implementation and participation gaps in China’s environmental management.”

“In China, it’s often difficult to ensure that national environmental policies are implemented at the local level,” Angel Hsu, assistant professor of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College and the lead author of both papers, told Caixin by email. “Our research suggests emerging forms of technology could harness citizen engagement to help overcome this longstanding challenge to environmental management.”

Launched by China’s environment and housing ministries in 2016, the Black and Smelly Waters app can be accessed via the ubiquitous social messaging platform WeChat. It allows citizens to record the location of potentially polluted bodies of water, upload photographs and descriptions of them, and rank them according to how putrid, off-color, or trash-laden they are. Government agencies are then supposed to follow up on the reports within seven working days. The app also tracks the progress of remediation efforts after officials acquiesce to citizens’ complaints.

Despite the app’s promise, challenges remain at both the uptake and implementation levels, the studies found. In a sample of more than 8,500 reports taken between February 2016 and May 2018, some 22% were made in Beijing, while high proportions also originated from the relatively developed provinces of Shandong, Hunan, and Guangdong. Less-developed provinces with fewer city dwellers produced “very few” reports, researchers noted.

Additionally, the number of complaints the researchers analyzed still “far outnumbered” reports of progress in remediating polluted sites. Approximately 60% of reports were still being addressed by officials, while only around one third were listed as “completed,” indicating the total remediation of the site, researchers said.

Decades of breakneck industrial growth left China’s waterways in a bleak state, but in recent years the government has vowed to clean up the mess. China aims to reduce the number of “black and smelly” water bodies to less than 10% of urban waters by 2020 and fully eradicate the problem by 2030.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: Chinese Public Less Troubled by Climate Change Than Other Nations, Study Shows

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By Matthew Walsh / Sep 25, 2019 02:05 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s agricultural heartlands have become one of the world’s largest “hotspots” of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals, a new study has found, as soaring global meat demand presents potentially severe problems for human health.

The research, published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Science, examined resistance trends in low- and middle-income countries where sales of veterinary antibiotics are poorly regulated. It identified a large upwelling of resistance in northeastern China — a major producer of poultry and livestock — and another nascent hotspot in the country’s south.

Alongside India, China represented the world’s largest resistance hotspot, the researchers concluded.

The study linked rising demand for meat to the increase in antibiotic resistance. Average per capita meat consumption in China has increased nearly fivefold since the early 1980s and is expected to rise by a further 10% by 2026.

But much of that demand is being met by intensive farming, which has driven excessive use of antibiotics that kill off disease-causing germs and help the animals grow faster. Over time, that overuse has led to the rise of disease-resistant superbugs that cannot be eradicated by even the strongest antibiotics, some of which can infect humans.

Policymakers have a “window of opportunity” to transition to sustainable animal-farming practices and rein in growing resistance, the researchers said, suggesting that high-income countries with longer histories of using antibiotics on farms could set up a “global fund to subsidize the improvement of farm-level biosafety and biosecurity.”

The growing threat of common ailments being rendered untreatable by antiobiotics has led some medical experts to call for global action. Earlier this year, one of the U.K.’s most senior government advisors on health matters, Dame Sally Davies, compared the threat of antibiotic resistance to that of climate change and called for the establishment of an intergovernmental body similar to the IPCC to tackle the problem.

The research comes amid a long-running animal-health disaster in China, as African swine fever continues to rip through the country’s pig herd. Up to 200 million pigs in China could die this year from disease or slaughter, fueling a potential 30% fall in pork production, according to Dutch bank Rabobank.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: China to Release 10,000 Tons of Pork From Reserves Amid Short Supply

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By Matthew Walsh / Sep 20, 2019 03:58 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

As climate activists walk out of their schools and workplaces around the world on Friday and nations prepare for a major UN summit next week, a new study reveals the impact local governments and companies can have on mitigating planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Efforts to slash emissions by cities, regions, and companies in China could help the country exceed its international emissions-reduction commitments and potentially mitigate the damaging effects of climate change, according to a study published Wednesday by Yale University and Germany-based research organization the NewClimate Institute.

Researchers concluded that such efforts could cut China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by an amount equivalent to roughly 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year beyond what current national policies would achieve.

That amount is roughly equivalent to less than 0.5% of China’s current greenhouse gas emissions, prompting researchers to describe the impact as “moderate.” But integrating local- and company-level emissions-cutting projects into international networks of cities, regions, companies, investors, and civil society actors could have a “significantly larger impact,” potentially reducing emissions in 2030 by the equivalent of up to 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year beyond current national policies, according to the report.

On Friday, climate change activists in more than 130 countries will participate in a global general strike in what is expected to be the biggest day of climate-related protests in history.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: In Depth: The Road Toward Creating the World’s Biggest Carbon Market

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By Zhao Runhua / Sep 17, 2019 12:56 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Monday passed a draft policy that would require all new vehicles registered for ride-hailing services to be fully electric, local state-run publication Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported.

The move comes as several Chinese cities seek to phase out vehicles that run on fossil fuels in a bid to boost electric-vehicle uptake and cut air pollution. Last year, the southwestern city of Kunming announced a similar plan to make all new ride-hailing vehicles run purely on electricity in 2019. The report did not give a timeframe for Shenzhen’s transition.

Shenzhen’s draft rules also include a host of other measures. In order to protect consumer rights, ride-hailing companies would be required to transparently display their pricing rules and the number of vehicles available within a three-kilometer radius of users. Chinese media outlets have previously reported that some ride-hailing companies use internal algorithms to charge varying fees for similar trips depending on users’ personal profiles.

Currently, 17 ride-hailing companies have received permits to operate in Shenzhen, but only 10 have formally launched their services, according to the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily. The city currently has around 58,000 registered ride-hailing vehicles.

Contact reporter Zhao Runhua (runhuazhao@caixin.com)

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By Ren Qiuyu / Sep 11, 2019 01:54 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is known for its picturesque setting on the Pearl River Delta, the soaring Canton Tower, and now a mosquito factory.

Yes, that’s a factory that breeds real, bloodsucking Asian tiger mosquitos. It’s located in a nondescript building in a sprawling “science park” and filled with millions of the pesky insect.

But don’t worry: The winged critters produced here are part of an experiment that aims to ease summer nuisances, not make them worse.

The factory’s male mosquitos are first infected with a strain of a bacterium called Wolbachia, developed over a number of years by Chinese scientist Zhiyong Xi. Batches of mosquitos are then released into the wild in an area on a small island 60 kilometers away. When they mate with females, the resulting eggs are sterile — halting the life cycle of the much-maligned insect.

A recently released study found that the experiment reduced the local population of Asian tiger mosquitos, officially known as “Aedes albopictus,” by up to 94%, potentially marking a huge step forward for controlling mosquito populations and combatting the diseases they carry, such as dengue fever and Zika.

Read the full story on Caixin Global.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

Related: Update: Authorities Confirm Dengue Fever Outbreak in East China

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