Climate Change and Air Quality News: July 24, 2015

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

The Toledo, Ohio skyline at night. The city’s story of shifting from auto glass manufacturing to solar panels may offer useful lessons for China’s economic transformation

What can China learn from Toledo? As China transitions its economy and increases investment in environmental controls, sectors such as steel, cement and glassmaking are slimming down, and this Wall Street Journal article quotes local officials from Jing-Jin-Ji that are looking for ways – and examples from abroad – to transform the local economy without losing jobs. The Paulson Institute is working on a report on this topic that highlights case studies from the US, including Toledo, Ohio – a city that has transitioned much of its glass manufacturing from the auto industry to the solar industry.

Zhejiang is piloting two-part electricity pricing for gas-fired generation, which was among the suggestions in a Paulson Institute paper presented at one of the June Paulson Dialogues, and is forthcoming. Market-oriented reforms have great potential to encourage cleaner energy production in the electricity sector.

Electricity and emissions statistics released for the first half of 2015 suggest that China is still building too many coal plants. The Paulson Institute’s Climate Change, Air Quality and the Economy report released this past June suggests that better integration of environmental and energy policies is one of the most important considerations for improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions. Improved planning for power plant construction by state-owned enterprises to account for environmental policy goals could also help save companies and consumers money.

Jing-Jin-Ji integration plans are gaining momentum as the Beijing government recently announced its intention to move the city government out of downtown to the eastern district of Tongzhou, to be strategically located in the center of the JJJ region. The New York Times reports on the background of the “supercity” plan and the current challenges, saying that Beijing will focus on culture and technology, Tianjin will become a research base for manufacturing, and Hebei’s role is still largely undefined.

The total carbon permits traded across China’s carbon exchanges increased more than six times from 2013 to 2014 – from 4 million to 24.7 million allowances – showing that the country’s pilot markets are maturing despite challenges, Carbon Pulse reported. The main reason for the increase was the launch of the Hubei market on April 14. A number of foreign trading firms have joined the Shenzhen market, and activity has also been helped by the introduction of an offset market, the first transaction of which took place in early March.

A few weeks ago we wondered if Beijing blue skies were the “new normal” – and yesterday Greenpeace released a report further confirming that air pollution has markedly decreased over the first half of 2015. Published with Ministry of Environmental Protection statistics, the results show an overall modest increase in air quality in 358 cities.