Climate Change and Air Quality News: July 1, 2015

Our Beijing-based Climate Change & Air Quality Program team share what they are reading and talking about


China’s Ministry of Environment Protection (MEP) released new details on fines and environmental performance for the first part of the year, publicly naming locations and companies that have so far failed to meet standards. Are the stricter environmental laws contributing to Beijing’s recent clear skies? That is a topic explored in our most recent blog, Beijing Blue Skies – Is this the New Normal?, written in collaboration with Greenpeace.

China Dialogue reported that China is moving ahead with plans to evaluate provincial officials on environmental consequences of their decisions, but auditing experts say these calculations are inherently difficult. Part of the difficulty of environmental audits will be in establishing an accurate baseline for any evaluation, which requires quantifying the condition of the environment at a particulate date. The scheme, which won’t roll out nationwide until the end of the decade, will seek to evaluate any damage officials incur on the environmental while in office, and punishments will be carried out over a lifetime. This plan is part of a broader trend to increase enforcement of stricter environmental laws, and to de-emphasize GDP growth as the most important key performance indicator for government officials.

An article in Mother Jones looks at the range of health problems linked to air pollution, with a focus on new research that has scientists suspecting a major cause of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could be the air we breathe. The article is a sobering reminder that air pollution problems are of course not limited to the situation in China. Though America’s air is the cleanest it has been in four decades, pollution still remains a major public health problem.

China’s national carbon trading scheme is likely to be ready by the end of 2016 or early 2017, according to a climate change official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). This news is in line with previous indications that the national start date might be pushed back from the original target of 2016. There are concerns that Beijing is rushing into carbon trading without laying the necessary legal and regulatory foundations, the article reports. The Paulson Institute is finalizing a paper with the Energy Defense Fund (EDF) on the topic of how China can successfully roll out a national carbon emissions trading scheme, including recommendations related to establishing an effective legal and regulatory framework.