China to Spend $16 Billion to Tackle Pollution

As pollution worsens and environmental concerns grow, Reuters reports China will spend $16 billion over three years to deal with Beijing’s pollution:

Beijing’s government has pledged to improve sewage disposal, garbage treatment and air quality, as well as crack down on illegal construction, the China Daily newspaper said, citing a three-year plan released on Thursday.

Beijing’s plan includes laying or upgrading 1,290 km (800 miles) of sewage pipeline, building five garbage incineration plants, setting up 47 water recycling plants and upgrading 20 sewage disposal plants, said China Daily.

Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun called on the government to allow the private sector to participate in these investments.

The government also plans to curb illegal construction and land use, and will compile a list of illegal buildings for demolition next year, Beijing Deputy Mayor Wang Wei told China Daily.

In addition to this plan, the Ministry of Environment is considering adding PM 2.5 reading to the list of binding environmental targets. The Economic Observer adds:

Zhao Penggao (赵鹏高), an official from the Department of Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), in a speech to an industry conference yesterday revealed that that the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is currently considering setting binding targets on the levels of PM2.5.

Among other things, the government set binding targets on the minimum amount of land to be set aside for farming, carbon intensity and the energy-intensity of GDP growth as part of the country’s 12th Five Year Guidelines.

Zhao also said that he believed that the government will put more effort into environmental protection and that there will be more space for the development of the environmental protection industry.

“As pollution is so serious, if we don’t do something about it, the public won’t agree and heaven won’t accept it” said Zhao.

This plan comes amid the pulling of around 1000 dead ducks from Nanhe River in Sichuan Province and over 10,000 dead pigs from a river near Shanghai. The cost of environmental degradation in China reached about $230 billion in 2010. From The New York Times:

The statistic came from a study by the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, which is part of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The figure of $230 billion, or 1.54 trillion renminbi, is based on costs arising from pollution and damage to the ecosystem, the price that China is paying for its rapid industrialization.

“This cuts to the heart of China’s economic challenge: how to transform from the explosive growth of the past 30 years to the sustainable growth of the next 30 years,” said Alistair Thornton, a China economist at the research firm IHS Global Insight. “Digging a hole and filling it back in again gives you G.D.P. growth. It doesn’t give you economic value. A lot of the activity in China over the last few years has been digging holes to fill them back in again — anything from bailing out failing solar companies to ignoring the ‘externalities’ of economic growth.”

And the costs could be even higher than the ministry’s estimate, he said. The $230 billion figure is incomplete because the researchers did not have a full set of data. Making such calculations is “notoriously difficult,” Mr. Thornton said.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media report the Beijing municipal party secretary said officials who perform inadequately in environmental protection will be disciplined. The Global Times reports:

Guo Jinlong, secretary of the Beijing Committee of the Communist Party of China, said at a press conference Thursday that the government will include environment protection as an index to assess officials’ performance, according to the Beijing Evening News.

“We should build sound systems for environmental protection. Those officials who perform poorly and passively in their job will be held accountable,” said Guo during the conference.

Zhang Kai, a campaigner with Greenpeace, said that establishing a disciplinary system of punishment should be based on the setting up of appropriate environment protection goals.

Zhang said that it is better for government to include third-party environmental protection experts and conduct regional cooperation in setting the city’s environmental protection goals.

Read more about pollution in China, via CDT.