Climate Change and Air Quality News: July 31, 2015

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

Beijingers can hope for a return of “APEC Blue” skies in August and September.

Beijingers can hope for a return of “APEC Blue” for the next two months, as the Jing-Jin-Ji region implements a clean-air initiative ahead of the capital’s hosting of the world track and field championships in August and the military parade planned for the new September 3 holiday celebrating the end of World War II. To ensure what some are calling “Parade Blue” skies for these events, similar measures will be taken to those in November, when world leaders gathered in Beijing: steel factories within 100 kilometers of Beijing will be required to halt production, those between 100 and 200 kilometers away will be required to reduce production by 50%, and those beyond 200 kilometers will be required to reduce production by 30%. The Paulson Institute released a report in June that recommended focusing efforts on integrated measures to reduce pollution as being more effective in the long term than temporary shut-downs around key events.

New figures released this week show China installed 7.73GW of solar in the first half of 2015, more than doubling installation from year ago, as the country chases its target of 17.8GW by the end of the year. However, integration of renewable energy into the grid system continues to be a challenge, due in part to lack of market incentives for utilizing cheap renewable energy instead of power from coal. According to a Bloomberg report, the National Energy Administration published data showing that about 9 percent of the nation’s solar capacity sat idle in the first six months of the year. Dormant generators were mainly in the northwestern region of Gansu and Xinjiang.

Paulson Institute’s Elle Carberry spoke with China Carbon Forum about the economic transformation taking place behind recent news of Beijing’s improving air quality and carbon commitments ahead of Paris. Carberry spoke about why China doesn’t need to sacrifice GDP growth for blue skies, what’s happening in Jing-Jin-Ji and how to best strengthen the US-China relationship.

The China Coal Cap Project released its latest report which finds that with the right policies, China’s industrial sector – focusing on power, steel, coal-to-chemicals, cement, buildings and building materials – could peak coal consumption by 2020 at a levels of 4.06 billion tonnes of coal or less. By 2030 (when China plans to peak all coal use) industrial consumption levels can decrease to 3.7 billion tonnes or less. View the powerpoint here.