WIDER IMAGE China farmers push back the desert – one tree at a time

David Stanway June 3, 2021 7:56 AM HKT

After a hard morning planting fresh shoots in the dunes on the edge of the Gobi Desert, 78-year-old farmer Wang Tianchang retrieves a three-stringed lute from his shed, sits down beneath the fiery midday sun, and starts to play.

“If you want to fight the desert, there’s no need to be afraid,” sings Wang, a veteran of China’s decades-long state campaign to “open up the wilderness”, as he strums the instrument, known as the sanxian.

(Click https://reut.rs/3fZFOvm to see a picture package of China’s tree-planting programme.)

Tree-planting has been at the heart of China’s environmental efforts for decades as the country seeks to turn barren deserts and marshes near its borders into farmland and screen the capital Beijing from sands blowing in from the Gobi, a 500,000 square-mile expanse stretching from Mongolia to northwest China, which would coat Tiananmen Square in dust nearly every spring.

But in March, heavy sandstorms hit Beijing for the first time in six years, putting the country’s reforestation efforts under scrutiny, with land increasingly scarce and trees no longer able to offset the impact of climate change.

Now a local institution in northwest China’s Gansu province, Wang and his family lead busloads of young volunteers from the provincial capital of Lanzhou into the desert each year to plant and irrigate new trees and bushes.

Their painstaking work to rehabilitate marginal land has been promoted as an inspiration for the rest of the country, and they are the subject of government propaganda posters celebrating their role in holding back the sand.

Over the last four decades, the Three-North Shelter Forest Programme, a tree-planting scheme known colloquially as the “Great Green Wall”, has helped raise total forest coverage to nearly a quarter of China’s total area, up from less than 10% in 1949.

In the remote northwest, though, tree planting is not merely about meeting state reforestation targets or protecting Beijing. When it comes to making a living from the most marginal farmland, every tree, bush and blade of grass counts – especially as climate change drives up temperatures and puts water supplies under further pressure.

“The more the forest expands, the more it eats into the sands, the better it is for us,” said Wang’s son, Wang Yinji, 53, who has taken over much of the backbreaking farming and planting while his father recovers from illness.


In a battered jeep loaded with a water tank and flying a large Chinese national flag, the Wang family have been planting the spindly “huabang” in the rolling dunes.

The flowering bush known as the sweetvetch has an 80% success rate even in harsh desert conditions and has become a key part of efforts to “hold down the sand”, a term used locally for planting bushes and grasses in even squares across the desert slopes to stop sand drifting into nearby farmland.

The Wangs have been fighting desertification since they settled on barren land near the village of Hongshui in Wuwei, a city in Gansu close to the border with Inner Mongolia, in 1980.

Their home is now surrounded by patches of rhubarb and rows of pines and blue spruces. Twenty bleating goats are locked in a wooden paddock nearby to stop them devouring the precious vegetation.

The family’s four acres of farmland are protected on one side by a forest planted about a decade ago, and on the other by a long sandy cliff.

Trees have become a major part of the local economy. Hongshui is dominated by a large state-owned commercial forest estate called Toudunying.

“After 1999, when the tree-planting sped up, things got much better,” Wang Yinji said, referring to the state-led reforestation initiative. “Our corn grew taller. The sand that used to blow in from the east and northeast was stopped.”

Experts say China’s reforestation work has become more sophisticated over the years, the government benefiting from decades of experience and able to mobilise thousands of volunteers to plant trees, emulating frontline pioneers like the Wangs.

But the fight is far from over, they add, with climate change set to worsen conditions for farmers living in the arid north.

“They have been living in similar conditions for generations,” said Ma Lichao, China country director for the Forest Stewardship Council, a non-profit organisation promoting sustainable forest management. “But it is very important to say that climate change is something very new.”


China plans to increase total forest coverage from 23% last year to 24.1% by 2025, but the constant expansion has masked many underlying problems.

Wang Yinji, 53, and his wife, Jin Yuxiu, trim a tree planted on the edge of the Gobi desert on the outskirts of Wuwei, Gansu province, China, April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

“There’s been relatively low survival of trees in some regions, and discussions about the depletion of underground water tables,” said Hua Fangyuan, a conservation biologist who focuses on forests at China’s Peking University.

Struggling to find space for new trees, the government of an administrative division in Inner Mongolia was accused in 2019 of seizing farmland to meet forest coverage targets set by Beijing. Artificial monocultural plantations, such as rubber, have also been created at the expense of natural forest, according to some studies.

“This (competing land use pressure) is a problem not just for China but all over the world,” said Hua. “We are talking about millions of hectares of targets. With the growing population, there is going to be competition and tension.”

This competition for land has been reinforced by China’s reliance on government-backed industrial-scale plantations to meet targets, though it is gradually shifting to a more nature-based approach to reforestation.

One such state-backed forest farm designed to repair the region’s overworked ecosystem is the 4,200-acre Yangguan project, on the outskirts of the city of Dunhuang, which has proven controversial.

Leaseholders eager to plant lucrative but water-intensive grapes levelled large sections of forest in 2017. In March, a government investigation team found Yangguan had violated regulations by allowing vineyards to be planted in protected forest. Villagers were also accused of illegally felling trees, and authorities were ordered to reclaim the illegally occupied land.

Officials on the estate said hundreds of staff from government agencies in Dunhuang would arrive soon with the aim of planting 31,000 trees on 93 acres of land in just four days. Gradually the surviving vineyards would be replaced with trees, a manager said, a move that would affect hundreds of farmers.

“The government and the farmers should work together to find a way to make money and ensure the water levels are sustainable at the same time,” said Ma of the Forest Stewardship Council.

There are signs that China has learned from past mistakes, when trees were planted – often by scattering seeds from military aircraft – with no consideration for existing ecosystems or weather conditions, meaning many failed to take root.

The government is now more careful in which species it selects to plant, and more inclined to make room for natural forests to expand, rather than create artificial plantations.

The forestry commission also plans to rethink its strategy in northwest China to reflect concerns that new plantations have put water resources under more strain, experts said.

But with local governments under pressure to grow the economy and guarantee food supplies, China’s tree-planting may also be reaching a point of diminishing returns.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to really increase the forest coverage rate simply because there aren’t so many places left for big reforestation projects,” said Ma.


Ma said the sandstorms that hit Beijing in March did not mean planting trees had failed, but showed it would no longer be enough to offset the impact of climate change.

“To be honest, I don’t think the trees can help the situation,” he said.

At a briefing last week, Li Jianjun of the China National Environmental Monitoring Centre said temperatures in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia have been 2-6 degrees Celsius higher than normal since February, with the melting snow exposing more sand to the wind.

Some of the farmers in Wuwei have begun to lose hope after decades trying to subdue the deserts.

Ding Yinhua, a 69-year-old shepherd, told Reuters the sandstorms were so severe that sometimes she didn’t dare open her eyes.

Despite the tree-planting, pastures have deteriorated in recent years as a result of declining rainfall in the spring and summer, she added.

“It’s just no good without rain. We don’t have land so there’s no other way: we just herd sheep. In 2015 and 2016, there was rain but since then there’s been nothing, and you now have to wait until September,” she said.

Her husband, Li Youfu, 71, said he thought tree-planting had made no difference at all.

“The sand is still moving. This can’t be controlled,” he said. “When the wind comes, it’s usually really strong. No one can stop it.”

Source: Reuters “WIDER IMAGE China farmers push back the desert – one tree at a time”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the report’s views.

One of the World’s Tiniest Nuclear Plants Is Coming to Idaho

The demonstration represents a new-generation of micro-reactors.

By Caroline Delbert

Feb 21, 2020

Okio Aurora tiny nuclear power plant.

An innovative nuclear plant that runs on lower waste fuel hopes to be online by 2022-2025.

  • The plant’s creator, Oklo, joins startups around the world working to innovate safer, smaller nuclear power plants.

  • But experts suggest that Oklo’s timeline is unrealistic with years of nuclear approval process ahead.

An experimental nuclear reactor in Idaho could be the first of its kind in the United States: a commercial reactor providing power using fuel that reduces nuclear waste. The small power plant could power about 1,000 homes and can run almost autonomously for 20 years.

This project comes from Oklo, that claims its reactor would be the “first ever” one to generate power through nuclear waste. But Oklo is just one of many groups working on ways to make localized and safer nuclear power as a bridge between the energy status quo and a more carbon neutral future.

Every scenario presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for keeping the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, relies on nuclear providing a growing share of our electricity,” the environmental blog Grist explains.

There are a few overarching ideas these aspiring innovators share. First, much smaller nuclear reactors—whether that’s relatively small versions of “full size” commercial reactors or truly localized small reactors like Oklo’s—are inherently safer. Imagine trying to wipe up a spill of a few drops of soda versus an entire two-liter bottle. It’s also easier and cheaper to build containment for smaller reactors.

Second, many of these innovative designs want to use a new or different format of nuclear fuel in their reactions. Some are using recycled waste products, some are using chemical reactions that can generate power without reaching “critical” state—and smaller reactors in particular require a lot less fuel, which, means there’s less toxic waste.

Oklo’s plans are a combination of both. At just 1.5 megawatts, the plant would be one of the smallest plants ever build—even during the early days of nuclear energy. The smallest exigent nuclear plant in the world produces 11 megawatts, and even Russia’s new floating power plant makes over 30. But the nondescript design looks like an A-frame house and would be easy to squeeze into many more locations than operating nuclear plants.

In December, Oklo received a permit to begin building their new Aurora plant, which is the first and only permit ever issued in the U.S. to a nuclear plant using something other than a light water (“water-cooled”) reactor. The specific mix of fuel they plan to use is called HALEU for short: “High-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) […] promises to provide more power per volume than conventional reactors, and its efficiency allows for smaller plant sizes,” Power explains. “It also promises longer core life and a higher burn-up rate of nuclear waste.”

There are big obstacles in Oklo’s way, though. Their planned timeline, which Grist says is to open between 2022 and 2025—after just receiving a permit in December 2019—would be one of the shortest in U.S. nuclear power history. For the first-of-its-kind commercial, HALEU-fueled fast breeder reactor, this seems optimistic, to say the least.

But if Oklo can breeze through the nuclear regulatory process and make a precedent for safer reactors to experience shorter approval times, that could pave the way for faster nuclear innovation—something many experts say we desperately need.

Source: Grist

Source: Popular Machanics “One of the World’s Tiniest Nuclear Plants Is Coming to Idaho”

Note: This is Popular Machenics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

Yellow River yields clues to Chinese legend of ancient ‘Great Flood’

A view of the Yellow river near the Lajia site, hit by a flood 4,000 years ago, in Qinghai province, China in this undated handout photo. Wu Qinglong/Science/Handout via REUTERS

A view of the Yellow river near the Lajia site, hit by a flood 4,000 years ago, in Qinghai province, China in this undated handout photo. Wu Qinglong/Science/Handout via REUTERS

A view of the Yellow river near the Jishi Gorge in Qinghai province, China in this undated handout photo. Wu Qinglong/Science/Handout via REUTERS

A view of the Yellow river near the Jishi Gorge in Qinghai province, China in this undated handout photo. Wu Qinglong/Science/Handout via REUTERS

The crushed skeletons of children point to an earthquake and catastrophic flood on China’s Yellow River 4,000 years ago that could be the source of a legendary “Great Flood” at the dawn of Chinese civilization, scientists say.

A Chinese-led team found remnants of a vast landslide, caused by an earthquake, big enough to block the Yellow River in what is now Qinghai province near Tibet.

Ancient sediments indicated that the pent-up river formed a vast lake over several months that eventually breached the dam, unleashing a cataclysm powerful enough to flood land 2,000 km (1,200 miles) downstream, the scientists wrote in the journal Science.

The authors put the Yellow River flood at around 1920 BC by carbon-dating the skeletons of children in a group of 14 victims found crushed downstream, apparently when their home collapsed in the earthquake. Deep cracks in the ground opened by the quake were filled by mud typical of a flood and indicated that it struck less than a year after the quake.

The flood on Asia’s third-longest river would have been among the worst anywhere in the world in the last 10,000 years and matches tales of a “Great Flood” that marks the start of Chinese civilization with the Xia dynasty.

“No scientific evidence has been discovered before” for the legendary flood, lead author Wu Qinglong of Nanjing Normal University told a telephone news conference.

In traditional histories, a hero called Yu eventually tamed the waters by dredging, “earning him the divine mandate to establish the Xia dynasty, the first in Chinese history,” the scientists wrote.

Their finds around the Jishi Gorge from about 1900 B.C. would place the start of the Xia dynasty several centuries later than traditionally thought, around the time of a shift to the Bronze Age from the Stone Age along the Yellow River.

Some historians doubt the Xia dynasty existed, reckoning it part of myth-making centuries later to prop up imperial rule. Written records date only from 450 BC.

The evidence of a massive flood in line with the legend “provides us with a tantalizing hint that the Xia dynasty might really have existed,” said David Cohen of National Taiwan University, one of the authors.

Deluges feature in many traditions, from Hindu texts to the Biblical story of Noah. In pre-history, floods were probably frequent as ice sheets melted after the last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, raising world sea levels.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: Reuters “Yellow River yields clues to Chinese legend of ancient ‘Great Flood’”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Russia at odds with Chinese, US push for fast approval of climate pact

Russia set itself at odds with a drive by China and the United States for rapid ratification of a global agreement to slow climate change when a senior official said on Wednesday that Moscow first wanted a clear set of rules.

Negotiating a detailed rule book for the 2015 Paris Agreement for shifting the world economy from fossil fuels could take years, in the worst case, delegates said at May 16-26 U.N. talks in Bonn on implementing the pact.

Top greenhouse gas emitters China and the United States say they plan to join the Paris Agreement this year and almost all other nations say they will ratify as rapidly as possible -before the rules are in place.

But Russia, the number three greenhouse gas emitter, questioned the plan in a rare sign of disagreement about implementation.

The Agreement can still enter into force without Russia, because it requires at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gases to gain legal force. Russia, the number three emitter, only accounts for 7.5 percent.

“The core issue to create the landscape conducive to joining is the development of the book of rules,” Oleg Shamanov, Russia’s chief climate negotiator, told Reuters.

He said it took almost five years to produce rules for the U.N.’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obliged about 40 industrialized nations to cut emissions. “We are hoping that it can be much faster this time,” he said.

Shamanov said Russia fully backed the Paris Agreement. It was among 175 nations to sign at a ceremony last month in New York, a record number for a first day of a U.N. pact.

Rapid entry into force would help strengthen the deal and insulate it from possible challenges – U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said last week he would seek to renegotiate the pact if elected.

A U.N. rule book will include how countries will report and monitor promised curbs on emissions in coming years and ways to adapt to changes in the climate such as more floods, heat waves, storms and rising sea levels.

China and the United States together account for 38 percent and big emitters such as Mexico, Indonesia and Argentina have also indicated they intend to join in 2016. So far, 17 small nations have ratified, with just 0.04 percent of emissions.

The U.S. National Resources Defense Council said nations accounting for 50.5 percent of emissions have so far signaled that they plan to join this year.

Patricia Espinosa, the incoming head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters last week that it was “not impossible” that the accord could enter into force in 2016 but that “this kind of ratification takes time.”

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Source: Reuters “Russia at odds with Chinese, US push for fast approval of climate pact”

Beijing to adopt China’s tightest fuel standards by Jan : Xinhua

Buildings are seen during a moderately polluted day in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Buildings are seen during a moderately polluted day in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Beijing plans to roll out China’s tightest fuel standards by January 2017, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday citing the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, as the smog-choked city aims to drastically cut vehicle emission.

The new rule for diesel and gasoline called “Beijing Six” standards will cut car pollutants by an additional 15 to 20 percent in the city, Xinhua reported, quoting a researcher with Beijing’s environmental protection bureau.

In addition, China’s “National Five” standard, equivalent to the Euro V specifications will be implemented nationwide in January 2017.

The “Beijing Six” standards is a major upgrade from China’s national five standards that are only used in more economically developed eastern provinces now.

The “Beijing Six” allows a maximum sulphur content of 10 parts per million (ppm), and requires a lower level of other pollutants such as Benzene and PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) compared with Euro V specifications.

Diesel burning trucks and automobile emissions have been a major contributor to Beijing’s persistent smog problem.

On May 20, the municipal government said it would retire more than 400,000 trucks and mini buses in 2016 and 2017 that burn low-quality high-sulphur fuels.

(Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)

Source: Reuters “Beijing to adopt China’s tightest fuel standards by Jan : Xinhua”

China braces for ‘severe’ flooding on Yangtze River

People look at the Yangtze River as they stand on a bridge in Badong city, 100km (62 miles) from the Three Gorges dam in Hubei province August 7, 2012 in this file picture. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

People look at the Yangtze River as they stand on a bridge in Badong city, 100km (62 miles) from the Three Gorges dam in Hubei province August 7, 2012 in this file picture. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Severe floods are expected on China’s Yangtze River this year due to a strong El Nino weather pattern, state media said, raising the risk of deaths and damage to property and crops along the country’s longest waterway.

The El Nino conditions are the strongest since records collection began in 1951, and resemble a 1998 weather pattern that flooded the river and killed thousands, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday, citing vice minister of water resources, Liu Ning.

“Precipitation in the upper, middle and lower reaches of the river is forecast to be as much as 80 percent more than normal from May to August,” Xinhua said.

Some Yangtze tributaries had already begun flooding and the flood control and drought relief situation was “extremely severe”, Liu said, according to the news agency.

Provinces and cities along the river needed to make contingency plans, Xinhua cited Wang Guosheng, the governor of central Hubei province, as saying.

China has frequently been devastated by natural disasters, particularly by floods and earthquakes that have claimed millions of lives over the centuries.

Flooding, an annual problem, has been exacerbated by urban sprawl and poor drainage infrastructure in many cities.

Xinhua said 1,320 people died in the 1998 floods, though estimates vary and some put the death toll at more than 4,000.

Floods could be a test of the water management capabilities of the controversial $59 billion Three Gorges Dam, which was finished in 2012. Along with power generation and navigation, the dam was designed for controlling the Yangtze’s water levels.

The ongoing El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, has been linked to serious crop damage, forest fires and flash flood and drought around the world.

Experts have warned that changing global climate leading to extreme weather will likely have an impact on the world’s most important commodity crops – maize, soybean, wheat and rice.

Most of the global production of these four crops comes from a small number of countries such as China, the United States and India.

(Reporting by Jessica Macy Yu and Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “China braces for ‘severe’ flooding on Yangtze River”

Smog chokes Chinese, Indian capitals as climate talks begin

Vehicles drive amid heavy smog in Beijing, China, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Vehicles drive amid heavy smog in Beijing, China, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The capitals of the world’s two most populous nations, China and India, were blanketed in hazardous, choking smog on Monday as climate change talks began in Paris, where leaders of both countries are among the participants.

China’s capital Beijing maintained an “orange” pollution alert, the second-highest level, on Monday, closing highways, halting or suspending construction and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.

The choking pollution was caused by the “unfavourable” weather, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Sunday. Emissions in northern China soar over winter as urban heating systems are switched on and low wind speeds have meant that polluted air has not been dispersed.

In New Delhi, the U.S. embassy’s monitoring station recorded an air quality index of 372, which puts air pollution levels well into “hazardous” territory. A thick smog blanketed the city and visibility was down to about 200 yards (metres).

Air quality in the city of 16 million is usually bad in winter, when coal fires are lit by the poor to ward off the cold. Traffic fumes, too, are trapped over the city by a temperature inversion and the lack of wind.

However, the government has not raised any alarm over the current air quality and no advisories have been issued to the public. Thirty thousand runners took part in a half marathon at the weekend, when pollution levels were just as high.

In Beijing, a city of 22.5 million, the air quality index in some parts of the city soared to 500, its highest possible level. At levels higher than 300, residents are encouraged to remain indoors, according to government guidelines.

The hazardous air underscores the challenge facing the government as it battles pollution caused by the coal-burning power industry and will raise questions about its ability to clean up its economy at the talks in Paris.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are both in Paris and both were scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday to give momentum to the two-week negotiations.


Modi sought to highlight India’s green credentials in an article for the Financial Times on Monday, writing: “The instinct of our culture is to take a sustainable path to development. When a child is born, we plant a tree.”

But at Connaught Place, a city centre landmark in New Delhi, people chided the government for failing to minimise the risks to their health from air pollution.

“The pollution level is so high it’s just unbelievable,” said Aisha, a 19-year-old student.

For Beijing’s residents, the poor air makes breathing hard.

“This sort of weather, you can see that all of Beijing has been completely enveloped in smog…and for every breath, getting up every morning, your throat will feel particularly uncomfortable,” said Zhang Heng, a 26-year-old architect.

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said on Sunday that it had requested factories to limit or suspend output and had also stopped construction work throughout the city.

The ministry said the number of cities affected by heavy pollution had reached 23, stretching across 530,000 square km, an area the size of Spain, but a cold front beginning on Wednesday would see the situation improve.

State-run Xinhua news agency said more than 200 expressway toll gates in east China’s Shandong province were closed on Monday due to smog. The province issued a yellow alert.

China launched a “war on pollution” last year following a spate of smog outbreaks in Beijing and surrounding regions.

China has vowed to slash coal consumption and close down polluting industrial capacity, but environmental officials admit that the country is unlikely to meet state air quality standards until at least 2030.

Reducing coal use and promoting cleaner forms of energy are set to play a crucial role in China’s pledges to bring its climate warming greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by around 2030.

(Reporting by David Stanway, Kathy Chen and Adam Rose in Beijing, and; Douglas Busvine and Alex Richardson in New Delhi; Editing by Josephine Mason and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: Reuters “Smog chokes Chinese, Indian capitals as climate talks begin”

China to hasten roll-out of car charging network: Xinhua

A Chery electric car is being charged at a charging station in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, September 1, 2015.REUTERS/Stringer

A Chery electric car is being charged at a charging station in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, September 1, 2015.REUTERS/Stringer

China wants to speed construction of a national network to charge electric cars, to help reach an ambitious goal of 5 million green vehicles on its roads by 2020, national news agency Xinhua said on Sunday, citing a senior energy official.

A shortage of charging facilities has long been a roadblock for sales by electric car makers, from domestic firm BYD Co Ltd to U.S. rival Tesla Motors, as well as for government plans to rein in high levels of pollution.

China has made some progress on car charging infrastructure but its approach has lacked coordination, National Energy Administration deputy head Zheng Zhajie said.

“It’s like with phone chargers, it’s a bit all over the place,” he told Xinhua. “Everyone has a pile of different chargers and a pile of batteries. Now we’re trying to improve things, moving towards unifying and standardizing.”

China aims to equip at least one in ten public car park facilities for electric car charging, he said, adding that the State Council, or cabinet, would soon issue guidance for the infrastructure roll-out.

China cut taxes on small-engine cars last week in an effort to revive its wider automobile market, the world’s biggest since 2009, although a recent economic slowdown has weighed on sales.

But one bright spot this year has been sales of green cars, which have almost quadrupled from the 2014 figure. The government sees electric cars as China’s best shot at closing a competitive gap with global rivals who have a 100-year headstart in traditional combustion engines.

China has rolled out aggressive targets for vehicle fuel efficiency that will grow gradually stricter until 2020, when its standards will exceed those of the United States and roughly match Japan.

The government has also offered tax cuts for green vehicles and proposed extending subsidies, mostly for domestic producers, to help automakers meet these targets.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “China to hasten roll-out of car charging network: Xinhua”

Chinese capital shuts third coal-fired plant in war on smog

A security personnel walks near Tiananmen Gate on a heavily hazy day in Beijing October 24, 2014. Reuters/Jason Lee

A security personnel walks near Tiananmen Gate on a heavily hazy day in Beijing October 24, 2014. Reuters/Jason Lee

(Reuters) – China’s smog-hit capital Beijing has shut down the third of its four coal-fired power plants as part of its campaign to cut pollution, with the final one scheduled to close next year, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

In 2013, the city promised in its clean air action plan to bring annual coal consumption down to less than 10 million tonnes by 2017, a reduction of 13 million tonnes in just four years.

It said it would shut down all four of its coal-fired power plants within four years, a move that would cut annual coal consumption by around 9 million tonnes.

Officials also plan to reduce coal combustion in heating systems and industrial facilities, partly by switching to natural gas and by relocating some factories out of the city, and to phase out coal consumption completely by 2020.

A 400-megawatt facility owned by the Guohua Electric Power Co. Ltd was shut on Friday and replaced with a gas-fired plant. It followed the closure of a 93-year-old power station run by Beijing Jingneng Power on Thursday.

It shut its first coal-fired plant, the 600-MW Gaojing facility owned by the China Datang Corporation, last July.

Average levels of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 stood at 85.9 micrograms per cubic meters in 2014, down 4 percent compared with the previous year, but still far higher than the national air quality standard of 35 micrograms.

Beijing plans to bring readings down to 60 by 2017, the municipal environmental bureau said earlier this year.

Only eight of the 74 Chinese cities monitored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection met smog standards in 2014. Seven of the 10 worst-performing cities were in the province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Pravin Char)

Source: Reuters “Chinese capital shuts third coal-fired plant in war on smog”

China’s 2013 economic cooldown marks shift to less heady growth

Buildings are seen in Beijing's central business district, July 11, 2013 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

Buildings are seen in Beijing’s central business district, July 11, 2013 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

China’s economy likely grew in 2013 at its weakest rate in 14 years due to a deceleration in the fourth quarter as a result of flagging investment and demand, heralding more sober times ahead.

Analysts say the world’s second biggest economy could cool further as China’s efforts to increase domestic consumption at the expense of exports and investment gather pace this year.

The fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data is due to be released at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT).

The median forecast of 24 economists polled by Reuters showed GDP likely grew 7.6 percent between October and December from a year earlier, easing from 7.8 percent in the previous three months.

That leaves growth in the Chinese economy at 7.6 percent for all of 2013, a low unseen since 1999.

“We expect the Chinese economy to face relatively big downward pressure this year,” said Li Wei, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai. “It is still hard for consumption to pick up the slack from investment and exports.”

After 30 years of sizzling double-digit economic growth that lifted many millions of Chinese out of poverty but also devastated the environment, China wants to change tack by embracing sustainable and higher-quality development instead.

Any change is expected to come at a cost of more muted economic growth, a price Beijing says it is willing to pay.

And Monday’s data should show Beijing has kept its word.

Fixed-asset investment — a main driver of China’s economy — is forecast to have risen 19.8 percent in all of 2013 from the previous year. That is the weakest growth in at least a decade, a reflection of Beijing’s refusal to boost state investment last year when China’s economy foundered.

Industrial output, meantime, is forecast to grow 9.8 percent in December from a year ago, moderating from November’s 10 percent gain as factories struggled with lukewarm demand at home and abroad.

A Reuters visit to scores of factories in south China this month showed China’s manufacturing heartlands have closed earlier than usual this year for the nation’s biggest holiday, discouraged by weak orders and rising costs.

Underlining China’s subdued domestic demand, growth in retail sales is seen dipping to 13.6 percent from November’s 13.7 percent.

Sagging growth in investment and domestic demand come at a time when Chinese factories are also fighting fragile global markets. Sales of Chinese exports had underwhelmed last year, missing an official 2013 growth target of 8 percent.

Although many analysts expect China’s export business to pick up this year, the country’s trade ministry sounded a cautious note this week by saying domestic exporters may have trouble beating their 2013 sales performance this year.

Source: Reuters “China’s 2013 economic cooldown marks shift to less heady growth”