New Private Conservation Initiative in China

Interesting development,

A group of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs have started an experiment in private nature conservation, shaking up China’s traditional, government-led approach to protecting landscapes and wildlife.

Late last year, 16 of the best known figures from China’s business world applied to the provincial government of Sichuan, western China, for permission to establish the “Sichuan Nature Protection Fund”. Their names will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Chinese industry: Jack Ma, chairman of the Alibaba Group, Ou Yaping, founder of Sinolink Worldwide Holdings, Huang Nubo, chairman of Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group, and Hu Zuliu, of Chunhua Capital are all involved. So too are Guo Guangchan, co-founder of Shanghai Fosun High Technology, Niu Gensheng, founder of the Lao Niu Foundation, and Zheng Yonggang, chairman of Shanshan Investment Holdings.

There are plans to invite other big names: Tencent founder Ma Huateng, NetEase chief executive Ding Lei and Broad Air Conditioning founder Zhang Yue, among others.

A list like this makes it one of China’s richest philanthropic groupings. To become an executive director of the board, you need to make “an initial donation of at least 3 million yuan [US$457,000]”. After the project is formally launched, “a voluntary donation of at least 5 million yuan [US$762,000]” will be required. Continue reading

Environment and economy in China

From Washington Monthly,

Like other cities in China, Beijing has a daily weather report and a daily pollution report. On the increasingly crowded freeways, drivers can see only so far ahead; each car leaves a wake in the smog. The dank air creeps inside buildings, into cars, into hotel rooms, leaving you nowhere to escape the distinct smell and the feeling of a weight always on your chest. The sun looks like a flashlight wrapped in cotton gauze, and the sky remains beige no matter the time of day. Most days, the city has no discernible skyline. Most nights, no moonlight or starlight pierces the darkness.

To understand why Chinese officials are genuinely concerned about the country’s growing environmental problems, you must first remember that they live here.

That is obviously true, and it is one good reason why we can be hopeful about China’s future efforts to curb pollution.

Another article in Business Week, entitled Broken China, is skeptical about the sustainability of the Chinese economic boom.

The China carbon loophole

But who is responsible for this multi-billion dollar rip-off? From Financial Times,

Billions lost in Kyoto carbon trade loophole

Billions of dollars are being wasted in the international carbon trading system owing to a loophole in the Kyoto protocol, according to a study to be published on Thursday in the journal Nature.

The Financial Times revealed last month [link added] that a few Chinese factories and carbon traders were making large profits by exploiting the regulations in the protocol surrounding a potent greenhouse gas, HFC-23.

By installing cheap equipment, the companies could gain “carbon credits” which they could sell for hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the study, about €4.6bn ($5.9bn, £3bn) could have been saved through closing this loophole, and instead spending €100m on a simple measure that would eliminate large quantities of the gas…

The downside of the boom in China

From Der Spiegel (via inkbluesky),

China’s Poison for the Planet

Can the environment withstand China’s growing economic might? As one of the planet’s worst polluters, Beijing’s ecological sins are creating problems on a global scale. Many countries are now feeling the consequences.

The cloud of dirt was hard to make out from the ground, but at an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,808 feet), the scientists could see the gigantic mass of ozone, dust and soot with the naked eye. In a specially outfitted aircraft taking off from Munich airport, they surveyed a brownish mixture stretching from Germany all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

These kinds of clouds float above Europe for most of the year and they’ve traveled far to get there. By analyzing the makeup of particles in the cloud, European scientists were able to identify its origin. “There was a whole bunch from China in there,” says Andreas Stohl, a 38-year-old from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

Read the story here.

China and UN to set up carbon exchange in Beijing

From Financial Times,

China and the United Nations are working to set up a carbon trading exchange in Beijing – a move that could establish the Chinese capital as an important centre for the multibillion-dollar global trade in carbon credits, according to the UN’s top official in China.

If successful, the exchange – which would be the first in the developing world – would compete with private sector carbon exchanges established in Europe and the US, and would help to open up further the lucrative Chinese market in carbon credits…

About $3bn in carbon credits from developing countries were traded in the first nine months of last year, according to the World Bank. The UN’s climate change secretariat said China was expected to account for 41 per cent of all carbon credits issued by the UN by 2012…

“I hope we can launch it this year – the sooner the better,” he said. Mr Malik said he hoped the exchange would also trade in special carbon credits that would be tied to the UN’s eight “millennium development goals”, which range from halving extreme poverty to universal primary education by 2015. While mixing the climate change goals with efforts to fight poverty, Aids and the loss of biodiversity will make the certification of the credits much more complicated, they may appeal to companies keen to polish their reputation for social responsibility…

The UNDP said most existing emission reduction projects in China offered “little or no impact on sustainable development”.

“Companies want very green credits,” said Kishan Khoday, UNDP Energy and Environment team leader…

If the project is tied to the utopian UN Millennium Development Goals (8 goals, 449 interventions, no accountability), it will be seriously weakened.