Friday, November 29, 2013

World News: Warsaw Conference Adopts Decisions on ADP, REDD+, and Loss and Damage (27 Nov 2013)

Warsaw Conference Adopts Decisions on ADP, REDD+, and Loss and Damage


23 November 2013: Negotiations during the Warsaw Climate Change Conference focused on the implementation of agreements reached at previous meetings, including pursuing the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

The conference, which took place from 11-23 November 2013 in Poland, included the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the ninth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9). The conference also included meetings by three subsidiary bodies: the 39th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 39) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 39), and the third part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 2).

Marking the second time that UN climate change negotiations have taken place in Poland, the conference drew over 8,300 participants, including 4,022 government officials, 3,695 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, and 658 members of the media.

Concluding 27 hours after its scheduled closing time, the meeting adopted an ADP decision that invites parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally-determined contributions, and resolves to accelerate the full implementation of the Bali Action Plan and pre-2020 ambition. Parties also adopted a decision establishing the Warsaw international mechanism on loss and damage, and the “Warsaw REDD+ framework,” a series of seven decisions on REDD+ finance, institutional arrangements and methodological issues.

China News: Gasoline pours from broken pipeline in SW China (27 Nov 2013)

Gasoline pours from broken pipeline in SW China

Xinhua, November 27, 2013

About 2,000 tonnes of gasoline has leaked from a broken pipe after an accident at a construction site on Tuesday night in southwest China's Guizhou Province, said rescue workers on Wednesday.
The leak started at about 0:40 Wednesday from a broken gasoline pipe after a construction tower collapsed late on Tuesday night at a high-speed railway construction site in Pingba County of Anshun City, said rescuers.
The pipe belongs to a branch of the country's largest oil refinery Sinopec.
Three people have received medical treatment, and more than 110 are working to repair the broken pipe and clear the site, about 30 meters from the Shanghai-Kunming railway, with residential houses nearby.
The local government has taken emergency measures to stop the leak and evacuate residents from within a two kilometer radius. Rail authorities have suspended train services from Anshun to the provincial capital of Guiyang.
A provincial joint investigation team has been formed to look into the accident, and safety inspections are being carried out across the province.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

World News: BBC, 'Signature' achievement on forests at UN climate talks (22 Nov 2013)

'Signature' achievement on forests at UN climate talks

Forests in Peru
Countries with forests will have to provide information on safeguards for local communities

Nations meeting in Warsaw at UN talks have agreed a significant step forward towards curbing emissions from deforestation.
A package of measures has been agreed here that will give "results-based" payments to developing nations that cut carbon by leaving trees standing.
One observer told the BBC that this was the "signature achievement" of these talks.
Deforestation accounts for about 20% of global emissions of carbon dioxide.
Earlier this week the UK, US, Norway and Germany agreed a $280m package of finance that will be managed by the World Bank's BioCarbon fund to promote more sustainable use of land.
Now negotiators have agreed a package of decisions that will reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus pro-forest acitivities (known as Redd+).
The conference agreed a "results based" payments system that means that countries with forests will have to provide information on safeguards for local communities or biodiversity before they can receive any money.
'Thrilling' outcome
The delegates agreed to finalise the technical requirements and establish a process to allocate money.
According to Paul Bledsoe, an energy research fellow at the German Marshall Fund, who is attending the talks, it is a significant step.
"The ministers have been working for almost 10 years to finalise the rules which will allow donors to invest in forest management practices in the developing world and get a way to verify the emissions reductions," he said.
"I think this agreement allowing for investments in forests in developing countries is probably the signature achievement of these talks."
This view was echoed by Pipa Elias from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
With the technical and financing decisions signed and sealed at today's plenary, the Redd+ house is built, though there will be a bit more work in terms of furnishing it.
"The biggest issue is that developed countries still need to ante up the $20-$35bn a year necessary for a global Redd+ programme. But, in the meantime, developing countries can get started now. We couldn't be more thrilled with this outcome," she said.

Hong Kong News: Sustainable development Fund invites applications (25 Nov 2013)

Sustainable Development Fund invites applications

The following is issued on behalf of the Council for Sustainable Development:

     The Council for Sustainable Development is now inviting applications from groups and individuals for grants to undertake projects that will raise public awareness of sustainable development and promote sustainable practices in Hong Kong.

     The Chair of the Council's Education and Publicity Sub-committee, Mrs Miranda Leung, said today (November 25) that this would be the 11th round of grant applications since the Sustainable Development Fund was established in 2003.

     "A number of priority areas will receive particular consideration in the current round of applications, including projects focusing on promoting waste reduction at source, building a sustainable community, promoting sustainable lifestyles or practices, and sustainability reporting by industries and sectors," Mrs Leung said.

     She added that projects that are generally consistent with the overall objectives of the Sustainable Development Fund will also be welcome.

     Details of the priority areas and application forms are available at Applicants are encouraged to submit applications via email to Applications should reach the Sustainable Development Fund Secretariat by 5pm on February 24, 2014. Enquiries can be directed to the Secretariat at 3150 8166 or

     In the first 10 rounds of applications from 2003 to 2013, 57 projects were approved with a total grant of about $56 million. These projects covered the areas of community involvement and capacity building, sustainable development education in schools and tertiary institutions, sustainability reporting, combating climate change, publication of a magazine, and drama production. All these projects have contributed to raising awareness of sustainable development in the community.
Ends/Monday, November 25, 2013

Issued at HKT 17:00

China News: Asian power stations blamed for mercury toxicity in fish (25 Nov 2013)

Asian power stations blamed for mercury toxicity in fish

Anna Valmero
article image
Reducing mercury concentrations in open-ocean fish will require a reduction in global emissions of mercury from fossil fuel power stations

Coal-burning in China and India is being linked to rising mercury levels in North Pacific fish 

Coal-fired power stations in emerging economies in Asia could be responsible for rising mercury levels in fish, says one of the authors of a study that looked at how mercury builds up in North Pacific fish.

He warns that as countries like China and India expand their reliance on coal-fired energy production — a major source of mercury pollution — mercury levels in deep ocean fish could increase drastically.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience in August, says that 80% of methylmercury (a highly toxic form of mercury) is produced deep in the ocean, rather than at surface level, as was previously thought.

A 2009 study reported that fish that feed at deeper levels of the open ocean, like opah and swordfish, have higher mercury concentrations than surface feeders like mahi-mahi, but until now it was not known why.

The fish species analysed in the new study by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Hawaii, in the US, are flying fish, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, moonfish (opah), bigeye tuna, swordfish, and two species of lantern fish. These fish feed at different ocean levels, enabling scientists to compare fish tissue mercury toxicity found at different depths.

Mercury in the marine food chain

Mercury can stay in the atmosphere for up to a year. The type of mercury found in the nine fish species analysed is capable of travelling globally before entering the ocean through rainfall. It then builds up — or bioaccumulates — in the tissues of larger marine fish when they consume smaller fish containing mercury, in a process known as biomagnification.

Prior to the study it was thought that the conversion of inorganic mercury by anaerobic bacteria into its highly toxic form happens on the surface of the ocean.

The study estimates that up to 80% of methylmercury detected below the ocean's surface mixed layer — 165 metres or deeper  — where sunlight does not penetrate, is produced by methylating microbes that live on sinking particles of dead plant and animal matter, which deep-feeding fish then consume.

The results shed light on how predatory fish that feed at deeper levels in the open ocean show higher mercury concentrations than those that feed in waters near the surface.

"We now know that depth of feeding is an important indicator of mercury levels in fish, as well as trophic position [food chain level], size and age. In general, fish caught in shallower water are better [for consumption]," says Joel Blum, the study's lead author and a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan.

The main pathway for methylmercury entering humans is through eating marine fish. People who regularly consume contaminated fish are at risk of damage to the central nervous system, heart and immune system, says Blum. Consuming contaminated fish can also hinder brain development among the young.

Blum thinks that methylmercury levels will increase in the coming years as energy demands and coal-fired production increase. 

China and India link

And, although the paper does not specifically blame China and India, the authors say that the location of the tested fish, downwind from these countries, strongly implies that coal-based industrialisation is a significant contributing factor.

"If we're going to effectively reduce mercury concentrations in open-ocean fish, we're going to have to reduce global emissions of mercury, including emissions from places like China and India," says Blum.

"This is a global atmospheric problem and we need to put emissions control devices on all coal-fired power plants, incinerators and other sources of mercury to the atmosphere," he adds.

Gregg Yan, spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature says that stopping the pollution of oceans by turning to green renewable energy sources such as solar and wind is key to keeping fish safe to eat.

China News: Yangqi Lake gears up for 2013 APEC summit (27 Nov 2013)

Yanqi Lake gears up for 2014 APEC summit

By Li Jingrong, November 27, 2013

An intense air pollution control campaign is underway in Beijing in preparation for the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, which will be held by Yanqi Lake in the northern outskirts of the capital.

Yanqi Lake is located at the foot of the Yanshan Mountains in Beiing. [File photo]
Yanqi Lake is located at the foot of the Yanshan Mountains in Beiing.

One of the most significant measures is to ban "yellow label vehicles" -- heavy polluting vehicles which do not meet national gas emission standards -- from the roads, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau announced on its website on Nov. 25.
The natural environment and the APEC summit have drawn world-wide attention. An air pollution control plan announced by the municipal government will be implemented in several steps from the beginning of next year.
The complete elimination of "yellow label vehicles" is a top priority for the heavily-polluted capital, and this program will be accelerated, taking advantage of the high-profile APEC meeting.
As a first step, cars will be prohibited within the 21-square-km Yanqi Lake ecological area and in the Huairou downtown area. Cars with non-Beijing license plates will be prohibited from entering the downtown area during rush hours. By the end of 2014, some 3,630 old motor vehicles will be eliminated and 197 buses using new energy sources will be in operation.
According to the plan, non-coal carbonization will be realized within the 21-square-km Yanqi ecological area. Seven townships have been told to ban a total of 126 coal-fired boilers and cut coal use by 247,078 tons. Five high energy-consumption enterprises will be closed down, and another 14 heavily polluters will have to stop production. Ten enterprises with emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) face punishment.
By the end of 2014, stone and earth-work projects in the Huairou District are expected to use high-efficient washing turbines and dustproof devices. Transportation vehicles carrying dirt with waste residue must be fully-sealed and installed with the global positioning system (GPS) to track their movements.
Zhao Huimin, director general of the Beijing Foreign Affairs Office told a press conference on Oct. 8 that Beijing was making intensified efforts to prepare for the summit. "The measures include population control, motor vehicle volume control, emission control, and closing polluting enterprises."
Yanqi Lake is located at the foot of the Yanshan Mountains, eight kilometers north of Huairou District. The lake, which faces the Great Wall to the north and the North China Plain to the south, is a beautiful scenic green site in the capital.
One international convention center, one boutique hotel and 12 VIP villas are under construction for the APEC Summit in the area, and they are expected to be ready by the end of 2013. The annual APEC event will bring together 21 economic leaders, who will discuss a range of issues with the aim of boosting economic ties.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World News: UN climate talks reach deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation (22 Nov 2013)

UN climate talks reach deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation

WARSAW, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Governments at the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw on Friday agreed a set of decisions on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests.
The agreement on the so-called REDD+ initiative is backed by pledges of 280 million dollars in financing from the U.S., Norway and Britain, according to a statement released by the Conference.
"I am proud of this concrete accomplishment. We are all aware of the central role that forests play as carbon sinks, climate stabilizers and biodiversity havens," President of the conference Marcin Korolec said.
Korolec hailed the deal as "a significant contribution to forest preservation and sustainable use which will benefit the people who live in and around them and humanity and the planet as a whole."
The decisions adopted provide guidance for ensuring environmental integrity and pave the way towards the full implementation of REDD+ activities on the ground, said the statement.
The package also provides a foundation for transparency and integrity of REDD+ action, clarifies ways to finance relevant activities and how to improve coordination of support, it added.
The agreement was announced as the two-week climate talks, which aimed to prepare for a global climate pact due to be agreed in 2015, are entering the final hours.

World News: UN Officials Recognize Cities' Role in Addressing Climate Change (21 Nov 2013)

UN Officials Recognize Cities’ Role in Addressing Climate Change

21 November 2013: The Warsaw Climate Change Conference celebrated 'Cities Day of the High Level Segment,' in recognition of the role of cities in combatting climate change. Cities Day encompassed a number of events, including a Conference of the Parties (COP) Presidency ‘Cities and Subnational Dialogue.'

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described cities as “the proving ground for our efforts to combat climate change, build resilience and achieve faster, more equitable development progress” in his remarks at the COP Presidency event. He said the complexity of cities makes “it difficult to channel urban issues into the climate discussion in a coherent way” and called for cooperation, innovation and scaling up to deliver a global transformation that results in “thriving economies, a healthier planet, sustainable cities and a life of dignity for all.”

unfcc-unitednations-unhabitatUN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) Deputy Executive Director, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, said local authorities are ready to act on climate change, but need strong frameworks within which to work and budgets to achieve their goals. She called for "establishing mechanisms to give qualified local authorities more direct access to international sources of climate finance." Rachel Kyte, World Bank, recommended supporting sub-national leaders to address climate change through basic regulations, finance and national frameworks.

Speakers also discussed recognition of sub-national and local issues within the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) text. Christiana Figueres, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, recognized delegates' disappointment with the most recent version of the ADP text, which reduced emphasis on subnational actors. David Cadmen, President, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), urged the Polish presidency to reintroduce text to raise the profile of local and sub-national climate actors and actions.

Additional events included: an ICLEI event, 'Local Government Climate Roadmap 2013-2013: Raising the Global Level of Ambition Through Local Climate Action;' 'Momentum for Change Urban Poor Pillar Lighthouse Activities,' which highlighted activities that address climate change and improve livelihoods and living conditions in urban areas of developing countries; and a UN-HABITAT event showcasing 'UN Agencies supporting climate smart cities.'

read more:

World News: CTCN Opens in Denmark (21 Nov 2013)

CTCN Opens in Denmark

ctcn21 November 2013: The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), co-led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Risø Centre and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), opened in Copenhagen, Denmark. The CTCN will assist developing countries in making informed decisions about environmentally sound technologies for adaptation and mitigation, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving climate resilience.

The CTCN, the operational arm of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Technology Mechanism, will work to accelerate the development and transfer of climate-related technology, including on early warning systems, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The CTCN's work is expected to reduce climate vulnerability, lower GHG emission intensity, improve local capacity, mobilize greater public and private investment and increase collaboration on technology transfer and deployment across and within developing countries.

It “will translate the rhetoric of climate technology into the realities of technology development, transfer and adoption,” remarked Griff Thompson, CTCN Advisory Board Chair. Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said “this facility will make a substantive contribution to accelerating the use of existing and new technologies that can improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries.” Li Yong, UNIDO Director General, said technology transfer will help small and medium enterprises “cope with the effects of climate change, but also to meet the overall requirements of inclusive and sustainable industrial development.”

Over the next five months, the CTCN intends to conduct regional trainings to prepare national focal points from developing countries to submit proposals to receive support for developing and deploying adaptation and mitigation technologies. The first training will take place in Thailand in December 2013. [UNEP Press Release] [CTCN Website] [IISD RS Coverage of CTCN Side Event at COP19]

read more:

China News: China's Urban Dilemma (23 Nov 2013)

China’s urban dilemma

China's policies for its cities are of global importance, argues chinadialogue editor Isabel Hilton
article image
China would be wise to model its urban development on cities like Copenhagen, rather than such outdated models as Los Angeles (Image by Carrie Kellenberger)
This article is part of a special report on urbanisation produced by chinadialogue, now available to download as a pdf.

After nearly three decades of rapid urbanisation, China's official and unofficial city dwellers outnumber its farmers. More than 400 million people have already moved into cities in the past thirty years; and in 2011 China crossed the threshold of a predominantly urban society. Today more than 52% of Chinese citizens live in cities, and by 2025 the government wants that figure to be 70%. To achieve this up to 250 million people will have to move in the next 12 years.

China's urbanisation counts as the biggest and fastest social movement in human history, a movement that has turned Chinese society on its head and raises many difficult questions for policy makers. Many of these questions revolve around money. One legacy of earlier times in China is the hukou, a permit held by every Chinese citizen that determines where he or she is domiciled. In Mao Zedong’s time, the hukou tied farmers to the land. In recent decades those farmers have migrated to China’s cities, seeking work, many of them in the construction boom. But with no right of abode they are locked into the status of a disadvantaged underclass, allowed to work in cities but not to enjoy the right of residence that would give them and their families access to health or education.
This system gives the cities the benefit of cheap labour with few of the associated costs, but it is widely recognised as unfair and in urgent need of reform. It makes for a precarious life for migrant workers, who often leave parents and children behind while they work in town for the higher cash wages that farming denies them. If China's new city dwellers are to become the consuming middle classes that China wants in its next stage of development, they will need the same privileges as existing urbanites, but who will pay?  

Most of China's local towns and cities have too little in the way of tax revenue and have financed themselves in recent decades by requisitioning agricultural land for development into industrial, residential or commercial buildings. This has left a worrying debt overhang for many local authorities, and further urbanisation will demand reform of local government finance.  

This model of financing has created other problems: it has swallowed up precious farmland and created sprawling cities whose inhabitants depend on cars and buses to get around. This means long commutes for workers and rapidly climbing carbon emissions, as well as the choking pollution and congestion that bedevils many Chinese cities. Essential urban infrastructure has sometimes been neglected and many of China's major cities lack such basics as adequate sewerage systems, that will cope with future expansion and the uncertainties of climate change.  

What kind of cities will China build in the next decade to house the further 250 million city dwellers planned for 2025?  Will that be ten new cities of 25 million inhabitants? Three new mega-cities of 70 million? Or 100 smaller cities of 2.5 million? How will these people live? How will they earn their living? How far will they commute each day? Will they live in energy efficient buildings? Will their new homes have enough water to cope with urban life and will the waste they generate be recycled?
The design of China's future cities will not only affect the health and wellbeing of their residents; it will also be an important factor in the battle to contain China's soaring carbon emissions. These questions, therefore, are of high importance to all of humanity. If China is to become the sustainable society envisaged in the 12th Five Year Plan, it would be wise to look formodels in such cities as Copenhagen, rather than such outdated models as Los Angeles.  

If China does reach its urbanisation target, it will be a very different society in just 12 years. Few societies have undergone such rapid upheaval without consequences and the impacts in China will extend beyond the short-term social and economic shifts. In the past five years China's urban middle classes have become vocal in defence of their property interests and in their desire for a less stressful, less polluted environment in which to bring up their children.  

Their demands for clean air, safe water and protection against noxious chemical plants have spilled over into complaints about lack of accountability and transparency in government. They are insisting on a greater role in the decision making and the planning that affects their lives.  

Prime minister Li Keqiang has put urbanisation at the heart of China’s economic and social agenda as the country aims to become a modestly prosperous, more sustainable society. As China slows down its breakneck pace of growth, middle class city dwellers will move into higher value occupations and become consumers. They will also demand a better quality of life. The decisions that China’s planners make today will determine whether those hopes are fulfilled.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Event: 4th Regional Forum-New Territories West on Waste Charging Scheme (30 Nov 2013)

可持續發展委員會 Council for Sustainable Development

4th Regional Forum - New Territories West

Waste Reduction by Waste Charging-How to Implement?
Municipal Waste Charging Scheme- Please send us your comments by 24 Jan 2014
Date: 30 November 2013 (Sat) 9:30AM

Venue: Shek Lei Community Hall

Address: 2 Tai Pak Tin Street, Kwai Chung, New Territories

for registration and more information"

India News: First National Taxonomic Congress - (December 5-7, 2013)

First National Taxonomic Congress - December 5-7, 2013


The Ministry of Environment & Forests, together with the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), is organising first  National Taxonomic Congress at Scope Complex, 7, Lodhi ROad, New Delhi - 110003 during December 5-7, 2013 to bring together multiple stakeholders of taxonomic knowledge, including the users, and to provide a platform to foster collaborative partnerships amongst disparate groups, the institutions and the universities.

Publication: Exploring Trends in Low-Carbon, Climate-Resilient Development (21 Nov 2013)

IISD Publications Centre

Exploring Trends in Low-Carbon, Climate-Resilient Development

» Jessica BoyleMelissa HarrisLivia BizikovaJo-Ellen ParryAnne HammillJason Dion, IISD, 2013.Paper, 37 pages, copyright: IISD
In recent years, the concept of low-carbon, climate-resilient development (LCCRD) has emerged as a key way of framing policy and action to address climate change, capturing the need for mitigation and adaptation efforts to be fully integrated into development planning and implementation.
This policy paper aims to better understand current shifts towards LCCRD and the trends that are shaping this evolution. It begins by identifying key principles and elements that contribute to current understandings of LCCRD at both the theoretical and practical levels. It then identifies two key drivers— governance and finance—that further define the broad context from which many of these LCCRD strategies are emerging. Finally, the paper analyzes several specific trends in key areas that are influencing LCCRD development, including Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), adaptation monitoring and evaluation, and online knowledge brokering.

World News: Climate Services Adaptation Programme Aims to Increase Resilience in Africa (21 Nov 2013)

Climate Services Adaptation Programme Aims to Increase Resilience in Africa

WMO21 November 2013: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) partnered with research groups, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations to launch the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa in an effort to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of weather and climate-related events.Funded by a US$9,750,000 grant from the Government of Norway, the Programme, the first multi-agency initiative implemented under the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), includes natural and social scientists as well as large development and humanitarian agencies working on the ground to ensure that climate services are tailored to the needs of the user community, including disaster management authorities, water and energy utilities, public health agencies, the transport sector and farmers.

An estimated 70 countries are ill equipped to meet the challenges of both natural climatic variations and human-induced climate change, and have inadequate or no climate services at all. The provision of more and better climate services will: allow farmers to fine-tune their planting and marketing strategies based on seasonal climate forecasts; empower disaster risk managers to more effectively prepare for droughts and heavy precipitation; assist public health services to target vaccine and other prevention campaigns to limit climate-related disease outbreaks, such as malaria and meningitis; and help improve water resource management.

The Programme will, inter alia: support and integrate existing initiatives in climate services, food security, nutrition and health, and disaster risk reduction, and develop related community programmes; and provide an opportunity under the GFCS for major international players to work together in a coordinated and holistic way. The Programme will initially focus on Malawi and Tanzania, will be operational in other African countries in the future, and is intended to serve as a model for other parts of the world. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud and State Secretary Hans Brattskar of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed the agreement on the sidelines of the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland.

read more:

Taiwan News: 垃圾分類愛環境 低碳清運我先行 (22 Nov 2013)

垃圾分類愛環境 低碳清運我先行







China News: Public participation still lacking from China's environmental laws (22 Nov 2013)

Public participation still lacking from China's environmental laws

William J. Schulte

The history of US environmental legislation may offer useful lessons for China’s evolving environmental laws
article image
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is able to revoke permits when petitioning citizens demonstrate that they were issued in violation of the law (Image bySteve Rhodes)
Mass environmental protests in China have increased at a rate of around 29% per year since 1996, and by a staggering 120% in 2012. A common complaint is that the legal requirements for transparency and public 
participation in environmental decision-making are often ignored. It has been 10 years since the adoption of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Law, and seven years since the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued its implementing regulations, but many in China still feel the process is opaque.

The history of how public participation developed in the US may offer some insights for China. Some of the first experiments with it occurred during President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1920s and serve as a cautionary tale for allowing participation without clear rules or procedures.

The US began to address some of these issues with the Administrative Procedure Act in 1946, which set the foundations for future participation in environmental decision-making. By the 1960s US citizens were beginning to question the wisdom of blindly pursuing rapid development without first considering the potential environmental and public health consequences (much like in China today). By 1969 the United States had adopted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was closely followed by groundbreaking laws such as the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The public participation requirements of China’s EIA Law, enacted in 2003, have many similarities with these laws. Both laws, as well as the CAA and CWA, require public notice of environmental reviews, disclosure of environmental review documents, public comment periods, the potential for hearings or meetings to garner public opinion, and substantive responses to comments received, including an explanation of why comments were or were not incorporated into the final review document.
Nevertheless, significant differences remain. NEPA requires the government agency to begin soliciting public opinion on a project at a much earlier stage than required by the EIA Law. This allows significant issues to be brought to light early on in the process and prevent later disputes. Moreover, the public comment period required by the EIA Law is a mere 10 days; NEPA requires a minimum of 45 days to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement.  

With respect to document disclosure, the EIA Law and implementing regulations are vague at best - many environmental advocates continue to experience an uphill battle in obtaining the documents they need to meaningfully review the proposals under consideration. NEPA, on the other hand, specifically mandates the notice of public availability of environmental review documents, including any supporting documents used in the review process.  

However, one of the most important differences between these laws is in obtaining a remedy in instances where the responsible entity fails to abide by the requirements for public participation. The EIA Regulations do allow citizens to petition the environmental agency charged with approving the final EIA if they feel that their concerns have not been addressed, but it is unclear what, if anything, the agency is required to do at that point. 
In contrast, the CAA clearly requires the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revoke permits when petitioning citizens demonstrate that they were issued in violation of the law. For example, in a case I was involved in back in 2009, we discovered that a state agency had issued an air permit to a waste incinerator in Newark, in the state of New Jersey, without following any of the participation requirements. This incinerator was known for its out-of-date pollutant emissions controls, and the community wanted to advocate for technology that would protect their neighbourhood. We petitioned the EPA, which required the state agency to re-issue the permit to allow for public participation. The community was then able, through both written comments and public hearings, to convince the state agency to reach a deal with the facility to install technology for the control of fine particulate matter emissions.

Improving the EIA Process  

While the situation may seem grim for Chinese citizens shut out of the public participation process, there are several reasons to hope for improvement. First, the MEP has been taking aggressive measures to discourage EIA consultants from falsifying public participation reports, even going so far as to withdraw their licenses. Nevertheless, some question whether such measures will be sufficient to address the systemic shortcomings of China’s EIA process.  Second, in May it was reported that amendments to the Administrative Litigation Law that may allow NGOs to file lawsuits against environmental agencies for failure to properly implement the EIA law will be presented to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress this month for review. If adopted, the amendments will presumably enable environmental NGOs to seek relief from the courts when the public’s right to participate is violated.        

Finally, many key figures in the environmental movement in China are continuing to push for more equitable and inclusive environmental decision-making. For example, on August 23 over 20 prominent environmental lawyers, scholars and advocates gathered in Beijing for a symposium to discuss and address these issues. The participants all agreed that China’s EIA process is severely flawed and must be fixed – otherwise, China will continue to see a rapid rise in environmental protests around the country.
source from: