Posts Tagged ‘air pollution’

Poland guilty of breaching air quality norms, top EU court finds — financial penalties if Poland does not comply swiftly

February 22, 2018

The European Commission took Poland to court in 2015, saying the country had failed to rein in air pollution. The court also noted that Poland’s plans to meet EU air quality standards were not effective enough.

Warsaw's Mermaid of Warsaw wearing a pollution mask

The European Court of Justice on Thursday found Poland guilty of violating air quality norms and warned of financial penalties if Poland did not comply swiftly.

The case was brought against Poland in December 2015 by the European Commission, which found that the daily limit for harmful air pollutants had been regularly breached in most parts of the country between 2007 and 2015.

The European Commission has also warned of legal action against nine other EU members, including Germany, if they did not come up with concrete plans to rein in air pollution.

Read moreGermany’s air pollution: Clean up or pay up

Under a 2008 EU rule, member states are obliged to limit air pollution to protect human health. More than 400,000 people die prematurely across the bloc every year due to poor air quality, according to recent estimates.

Ineffective plan

The court also found Poland’s plans to curb air pollution ineffective, saying the existing plans would not bring air quality in line with EU standards between 2020 and 2024.

Read moreCan free public transport really reduce pollution?

Poland argues that its economic and financial situation makes an earlier implementation of EU law difficult.

“[Poland’s argument] cannot, in itself, justify such long deadlines for putting an end to those excesses,” the court said.

ap/ng (dpa, AFP)


German court considers banning diesel cars in cities to tackle pollution, protect public health

February 22, 2018


Cars pass by a sign reading ‘environment zone’ and allowing entrance just for cars with low emissions recognizable on a green sticker in Frankfurt, Germany. (dpa via AP)
BERLIN: A German court began considering Thursday whether authorities should ban diesel cars from cities in order to lower air pollution, a move that could have drastic consequences for the country’s powerful auto industry.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is hearing an appeal by two German states against lower court rulings that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective and should be seriously considered as a means of protecting public health.
The court has said a verdict could be issued as early as later Thursday. If judges reject the appeal, dozens of cities would have a few months to enact measures to remove heavily polluting diesel vehicles from the roads — an administrative nightmare for local authorities and a heavy blow to drivers who bought cars they were promised met emissions standards.
Image result for diesel vehicles, photos, showing exhaust
The original court cases were brought by the group Environmental Action Germany, which accuses the government of putting automakers’ interests before people’s health.
“We expect to be protected, that decisions will be taken which bring down emissions to a level that provides a healthy living for us,” said Axel Friedrich, a representative of the group.
German car manufacturer Volkswagen was found three years ago to have used in-car software to cheat on US diesel emissions tests. The discovery resulted in large fines and costly buybacks for VW in the US, but the German government has refrained from punishing VW, a major employer that’s partly owned by the state of Lower Saxony.
Apart from hitting Volkswagen and other German carmakers, officials warn that a ban could paralyze bus companies, garbage collection services and tradespeople who rely heavily on diesel vehicles.
The European Union is also putting pressure on Germany and other countries for failing to rein in air pollution.
In a bid to avoid punitive action by the EU, German officials recently proposed a series of steps to reduce harmful emissions, including making public transport free on days when air pollution is particularly bad, and requiring taxis and car-sharing companies to use electric vehicles.
Image result for diesel vehicles, photos, showing exhaust
Automakers are particularly worried about another government proposal: forcing them to physically upgrade millions of vehicles that don’t conform to emissions limits.
Protesters outside the Leipzig court said a diesel ban would make a positive difference in their lives.
“When I cycle, especially in winter, I have to breathe the emissions,” said Manfred Niess from Stuttgart. “I avoid breathing in deeply so as not to inhale all the poison.”

Thai junta under pressure to tackle pollution ‘crisis’

February 22, 2018


© DAILYNEWS/AFP | Around a dozen activists delivered the large hourglass to a representative of Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha
BANGKOK (AFP) – Environmental activists presented the Thai junta with an hourglass filled with dust on Thursday as part of a plea to tackle the hazardous levels of air pollution that have hung over the capital in recent weeks.Bangkok, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, has been shrouded in smog for nearly a month, with authorities reporting unhealthy concentrations of harmful microscopic particles known as PM2.5.

Around a dozen Greenpeace activists wearing facemasks and carrying placards delivered the large hourglass to a representative of the Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha in Bangkok.

 Image result for Bangkok,, air pollution, photos

The gift “symbolises calls on the government to urgently tackle the air pollution crisis”, Greenpeace said in a statement.

The group’s Thailand director, Tara Buakamsri, called on the junta chief to improve the kingdom’s pollution monitoring and warning systems.

“Bangkok cannot continue choking on hazardous air,” he said.

Image result for Bangkok,, air pollution, photos

“It endangers the lives of people, affects economic productivity and negatively impacts the prestige of one of the most popular cities on earth,” he added.

According to the watchdog, on 42 of the past 50 days Thailand’s PM2.5 concentration has exceeded the safety limits recommended by the World Health Organization.

On Thursday Bangkok’s Air Quality Index (AQI) was measured at 119 by the monitor AQICN, a level described as “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.

Thai officials say they expect rain to help clear the air but have warned the young, sick and elderly to stay indoors.

Troops have also been deployed to spray water into the air and wash down streets to help clear the dust, while Bangkok’s governor said open burning would be restricted.


Greenpeace appeals to Thai PM to tackle air pollution ‘crisis’ — Greenpeace said Bangkok suffered the worst air pollution in its history between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21

February 22, 2018

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The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Environment group Greenpeace on Thursday called on Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to tackle an air pollution “crisis” in Bangkok, weeks after a pollution agency said the city’s air quality had hit dangerous levels.

Air pollution has been under the spotlight in Bangkok, one of the world’s most popular tourist cities, with many residents complaining about smog.

Greenpeace said Bangkok suffered the worst air pollution in its history between Jan. 1 and Feb. 21.

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The Pollution Control Department warned this month that the level of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, or PM2.5 dust, in the city had hit unhealthy levels and asked children to stay indoors.

PM2.5 dust, the most dangerous kind, includes pollutants such as nitrates that can penetrate the cardiovascular system.

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Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha leaves a cardboard cutout of himself to take questions from reporters — he is known for his distain for the men and women of Thailand and has made a close alliance with China

Critics blame Bangkok’s worsening air pollution on lax enforcement of vehicle emission standards, poor urban planning and insufficient green spaces.

Greenpeace activists presented an hourglass filled with dust from Bangkok and other provinces most affected by severe air pollution to a government representative.

“Bangkok cannot continue choking on hazardous air,” said Tara Buakamsri, director of Greenpeace in Thailand.

“It endangers the lives of people, affects economic productivity and negatively impacts the prestige of one of the most popular cities on earth.”

The prime minister, who is also the chairman of the National Environment board, should order an improvement in air quality, he said.

The PM2.5 level in central Bangkok was at 22.5 micrograms per m3 on Thursday, according to the AirVisual smartphone application.

Earlier this month, the pollution department measured PM2.5 dust in Bangkok at 72-95 micrograms per m3.

That compares with a World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of an annual average of no more than 10 micrograms.

Fast Europe Open: UK retail sales, Czech Republic GDP

February 16, 2018

View From Hong kong

Financial Times (FT)

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Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong — 0800 GMT, February 16, 2018

Beware the pollutants in your bathroom cabinet.

Volatile chemicals from everyday consumer items such as cleaning products, aerosols and even perfumes now rival vehicle emissions as a cause of air pollution.

A research team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached the surprising conclusion after assessing the source of chemicals that reacted in the air to form fine particles and other lung-damaging pollutants in the US city of Los Angeles.

“As transportation gets cleaner, those other sources become more and more important,” said Brian McDonald, the project leader. “The stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution.”

In markets, Japanese stocks rallied as the rebound in global equities showed little sign of slowing following the sharp sell off last week. The Topix was 1.2 per cent higher although Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 per cent. Markets in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed for the lunar new year.

Meanwhile, the dollar resumed its downward trajectory with the dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of peers, falling 0.3 per cent to 88.305, a three-year low. The yen strengthened further to ¥105.75, a 15-month high.

Futures tip the FTSE 100 to open 0.5 per cent higher, while the S&P 500 is set to open up 0.2 per cent.

Corporate earnings and updates for Friday include Air France, EDF, Danone, Renault and Allianz. The economic calendar believes three is the magic number (all times London):

08.00: Czech Republic Q4 gross domestic product
08.20: European Central Bank’s Benoit Coeure speaks in Macedonia
09.30: UK retail sales


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Czech Republic

The economy had a strong showing in 2017: Growth picked up pace in three consecutive quarters, and indicators suggest the momentum carried over into the final quarter. Industrial production and retail trade turned in positive results again in November, albeit moderating from the prior month. Furthermore, the manufacturing PMI continued climbing throughout the quarter, clocking a multi-year high in January. However, while consumer confidence improved in January, business confidence slipped. Politically, the sailing is less smooth. President Milos Zeman, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, won a second term on 27 January; he is one of the few allies of Andrej Babiš, who has been prime minister since December. Babiš, who lost a no-confidence vote on 10 January, has been unable to garner majority backing to form a government. However, the Communist Party agreed to restart talks over possible support of a Babiš-government. The combination of Zeman and Babiš could, however, strain relations with the EU further as both men oppose further EU integration.

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Indonesia eyes lax palm oil rules in EU trade deal — Wants to continue to harm the environment by crop burning — Jakarta’s goal leaked out in papers marked “not for publication”

February 16, 2018



© AFP/File / by Harry PEARL | Palm oil producers in Indonesia stand accused of burning areas of rainforest to make way for plantations, in fires that often spread and devastate the local environment

JAKARTA (AFP) – Palm oil giant Indonesia is pressing the European Union to abandon plans to apply strict environmental standards to the sector and silence “negative” criticism about the commodity, documents obtained by AFP have revealed.The papers, marked “not for publication” and for distribution only on a “need to know” basis, reflect Jakarta’s wish list for a critical industry as the two sides hammer out new rules for a trading relationship worth $35 billion a year.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil — used in everything from food to cosmetics — and vast swathes of rainforest have been destroyed to make way for plantations that are the backbone of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

This annual slash-and-burn clearing threatens endangered species and fuels annual forest fires that plague the region.

Indonesia and the EU kick off a fourth and possibly final round of negotiations — covering a wide range of trade, investment and intellectual property rules — from Monday in the archipelago nation.

The documents outline a call for the EU to apply Jakarta’s own government sustainability standard — despite serious concerns about its credibility — rather than a tougher European certification scheme that was proposed in April last year.

Only a minority of Indonesian palm oil plantations currently even meet Jakarta’s relatively lax standards.

Separately, Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia — another major palm oil producer — have slammed the European Parliament’s move to ban the use of the commodity in biofuels from 2021.

They say that the ban would devastate rural communities where many small-scale farmers survive by cultivating the crop.

Indonesia’s trade ministry declined to comment on the leaked text, which is dated June 2017.

The last round of talks were in September last year, and it is not clear if the documents reflect Jakarta’s latest position in negotiations, which began in mid-2016.

European Commission officials said they would not comment on an alleged leak. However, they said any final deal would not come at the expense of acceptable environmental or labour standards.

One passage calls for the EU to legislate against “negative” messaging and campaigns with “misleading nutrition, health and/or environmental claims”, in an apparent bid to head off criticism about palm oil’s impact.

The industry frequently accuses rival foreign vegetable oil firms of working with NGOs to launch “black campaigns” against the sector.

However, there is “no question of limiting the possibilities of any entity in the EU to inform consumers about products available in the market”, a Commission spokesman told AFP.

Jakarta also wants the EU to agree that one party must compensate the other for any economic losses “due to the pursuit of sustainability”.

Environmentalists said Jakarta’s call to apply its own sustainability programme demonstrates Indonesia isn’t serious enough about addressing the ecological impact of its palm oil sector.

“The (government standard) is not sufficient enough to ensure sustainability as it allows conversion of natural forest” to plantations, environmental group WWF’s Indonesia office said in a statement after reviewing documents supplied by AFP.

“So, in our mind, (it) does not fulfil (the) EU market requirement of sustainability compliance.”

by Harry PEARL


Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1.
Fires raged on peatlands on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, on Nov 1, 2015. Photo: Getty Images


Singapore Central Business District, or CBD skyline is covered with a thick haze.


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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo


EPA Withdraws Air Pollution Policy

January 26, 2018

EPA reverses policy on ‘major sources’ of pollution


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it was withdrawing a provision of the Clean Air Act that requires a major source of pollution like a power plant to always be treated as a major source, even if it makes changes to reduce emissions.

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Cars and people move up and down State Street in smog filled downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. December 12, 2017. REUTERS/George Frey

The decision to withdraw the “once-in always-in” policy is part of President Donald Trump’s effort to roll back federal regulations and was sought by utilities, the petroleum industry and others.

Sources of air pollution previously classified as “major sources” may be reclassified as “area” sources when the facility limits its emissions below “major source” thresholds, the EPA said. Area sources are subject to less strict pollution control standards than major sources.

“It will reduce regulatory burden for industries and the states, while continuing to ensure stringent and effective controls on hazardous air pollutants,” Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in a statement.

The “once-in always-in” policy, which was established in 1995, has been a disincentive for power plants, factories and other major sources of pollution to pursue technological innovations that would reduce emissions, the agency said.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the decision “is among the most dangerous actions that the Trump EPA has taken yet against public health.”

“This move drastically weakens protective limits on air pollutants like arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins that cause cancer, brain damage, infertility, developmental problems and even death,” John Walke, director of a clean air program for the NRDC, said in a statement.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Leslie Adler

See also:

EPA Withdraws Air Pollution Policy

China’s economic mastermind pledges more reform at Davos

January 24, 2018


© AFP | Liu promised to carry out China’s financial services liberalisation, which was unveiled late last year

DAVOS (SWITZERLAND) (AFP) – The man behind China’s economic policy took the stage at Davos on Wednesday, pledging to push forward the country’s four-decade reform and further open the country to the world.Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s main economic advisor, echoed his boss’s lofty pro-globalisation words from last year’s Davos summit, promising foreign companies greater access to China’s financial services market, manufacturing and some service industries.

He promised to carry out China’s financial services liberalisation, which was unveiled late last year.

Banking, securities and insurance industries will allow more foreign access, he said, adding that these measures would be implemented one at a time.

China will work to increase imports, do better at protecting intellectual property and “gradually lower the imported automobile tariff rate”, he said.

Noting this year was the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening policy that brought about the country’s economic miracle, he said “we will continue to press our reform and opening policy in China”.

Those market reforms were “behind China’s growth”, he said

Added to the Communist Party’s 25-member politburo in October, Liu holds substantial clout in China and analysts forecast the 65-year-old will take on greater responsibilities in China’s government this year.

Liu began his speech to the forum of global elite leaders with a rundown of Xi’s three-and-a-half-hour address to the 19th Party Congress delivered last October, telling the crowd the address was the place to start for insight into China’s policy priorities.

He reiterated China will focus on three battles in coming years: resolving risks, reducing poverty and controlling pollution.

China will make our “skies blue again”, he vowed.


China Sucks Gas Out of Global Market Amid Shift From Coal

January 23, 2018

Move boosts LNG price and leaves large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas supplies

Heavy smog envelops the express road in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, in October. China’s smog levels are well in excess of World Health Organization standards.
Heavy smog envelops the express road in Shijiazhuang, north China’s Hebei Province, in October. China’s smog levels are well in excess of World Health Organization standards. PHOTO: JIA MINJIE/ZUMA PRESS

China is replacing coal with gas, sucking up global supplies of the fuel and pushing up the price of liquefied natural gas to a three-year high.

The world’s No. 2 economy is cutting back on coal after President Xi Jinping made a cleaner environment a key priority at last Fall’s Communist Party Congress.

That has left large swathes of industry in China struggling with limited gas, including giants like German chemical company BASF SE and local producer Yunnan Yuntianhua Co., as supplies are diverted to households that had previously relied on coal for heating.

China’s smog levels are still well in excess of World Health Organization standards, and analysts see no letup in the country’s move out of coal, which releases more greenhouse gas emissions than gas.

That’s good news for the LNG industry, which ships super chilled gas in its liquid form, at a time when large amounts of new supply has limited price gains.

“We were optimistic on the opportunity in China, but the magnitude surprised us,” said Anatol Feygin, chief commercial officer at U.S. LNG exporter Cheniere Energy Inc.

China BoomChina’s gas demand is driving the price ofliquefied natural gas higher.China’s natural gas demand
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Japan Korea Marker, per million Britishthermal unitsSource: S&P Global PlattsNote: 2018 demand is an estimate

Cheniere opened an office in Beijing in 2017 to market its LNG and is in discussions with China National Petroleum Corp. for a long-term sales contract for U.S. gas. Among others, Malaysia’s national energy company Petronas also announced plans last year to expand their LNG sales in Southern China.

The price of LNG delivered to Asia hit $11.70 per million British thermal units this month, its highest level since November 2014, according to the Platts JKM benchmark price.

Chinese LNG imports rose by almost 50% in 2017, and the country has now eclipsed South Korea to become the world’s second-largest importer behind Japan.

The extra imports still haven’t been enough for some parts of Chinese industry.

On Dec.12, BASF stopped producing some chemicals at a Chongqing-based facility due to “a supply shortage of natural gas,” it said in a statement at the time. The company told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that its production remained suspended and it is unclear when it will resume.

Yunnan Yuntianhua said on Dec. 13 that its ammonia and urea production lines in the southwest province of Yunnan were halted due to “partial suspension in natural gas supply in southwest regions” to ensure heating demand for residents during the winter, according to a company filing to the Shanghai stock exchange.

Analysts say that given Beijing’s very public commitment to improving air quality, the shift away from coal is unlikely to lose urgency over the medium term. But neither will Chinese policy makers let citizens freeze, meaning that gas supplies will continue to be diverted to households.

“It’s clear that Beijing will continue its push to reduce reliance on coal,” said Fan Qingtian, senior analyst at Changjiang Futures Co. It isn’t unusual for Chinese policy makers to implement broad rulings that lead to unintended consequences, he said.

China has committed to increasing gas’s share of its energy mix to 10% by 2020 from its current level of around 7%. That could increase annual gas demand by more than 50% from 2016 levels to 325 billion cubic meters, according to Bernstein.

“There’s an issue of how quickly can this be achieved without creating bottlenecks and price spikes especially when it’s cold,” said Kerry Anne Shanks, head of Asia Pacific LNG research at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

The surge in demand from China couldn’t have come at a better time for the LNG market. A wave of new projects in Australia, the U.S. and Russia have helped keep the price of LNG at almost half its 2014 peak of more than $20 per million BTUs.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the biggest LNG shipper and producer, estimates that from 2016 to 2020, trade will increase by one-third to 350 million tonnes a year.

“I think part of the reason they [China] decided to do this was they knew they could purchase extra amounts from the market without tripling the price of LNG,” said Alan Townsend, senior energy specialist at the World Bank.

As it takes in more gas, China has been beefing up import facilities, according to consultancy Energy Aspects.

At the end of last year, China had the capacity to import 56 million tonnes of LNG a year and that is set to rise by a third to 74 million tonnes by 2020. A new pipeline from Russia to China is due to be completed in 2019, plus production from domestic gas fields is ramping up.

The move to gas is set to stay.

“Once certain cities, industries go into gas, they can’t get out; it’s that simple, even if the price increases,” said Javier Moret, global head of LNG at RWE Supply & Trading GmbH.

Write to Sarah McFarlane at and Nathaniel Taplin at

China manufacturing activity slows in December

December 31, 2017


© AFP/File | China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a gauge of factory conditions, stood at 51.6 in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, compared to 51.8 in November

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s manufacturing activity edged down in December, official data showed Sunday, but largely maintained momentum despite increased curbs on heavy industry aimed at taming the country’s chronic air pollution.The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a gauge of factory conditions, stood at 51.6 in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, compared to 51.8 in November.

Anything above 50 is considered growth while a figure below that number points to contraction. The number was in line with the expectations of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

China has curbed activity in heavy industries in the country’s northeast in an effort to reduce surplus capacity and the heavy smog that typically blankets the region during the late autumn and winter months.

In the face of public discontent over chronic pollution, the world’s second largest economy has signalled that it is willing to tolerate a slowdown in economic growth in exchange for an improved environment.

But the move to cut back on heavily polluting industries like steel has so far not had a major impact on the country’s manufacturing sector.

“2017 has been a year of stabilisation for the Chinese economy, after a recovery in 2016,” Bloomberg News quoted Chen Long, an economist at Gavekal Dragonomics, as saying.

The annual average PMI reading for 2017 was 51.6, the NBS said.