China’s environmental problems

China could be the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases by 2009, overtaking the United States, according to the International Energy Agency.

Scientists say pollution particles in the air in the western United States, Europe, South Korea and Japan originated in China. Chinese factories, power plants and vehicles are lifting average temperatures, says Zou Ji, a climate policy expert at People's University of China in Beijing.

  • Emission cuts could be out of reach because of high economic growth, large amount of coal burning and low effective operation of treatment facilities, say environmental scientists.

  • Last year, China's economy grew by 10.7 per cent; consumption of coal increased by nearly 230 million tons, resulting in the release of 2.8 million tons of sulphur dioxide from coal burning, State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) figures show.

  • Meanwhile the output of paper products, one of the major sources of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) – a water pollution index and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions – reached more than 58 million tons, an increase of 20 per cent over 2005.

    Besides poor air quality, China faces a variety of other environmental problems:

  • 340 million of 1.3 billion Chinese (26 per cent) lack access to clean drinking water.

  • 10 per cent of China's farmland is polluted.

  • About 40 per cent of Chinese cities lack sewage treatment facilities.

  • All of China's major rivers are dangerously polluted; two-thirds of the country's rivers and lakes are severely polluted.

    Source: Nation's environment, USA Today, February 16, 2007; and Pollution control targets not met last year, China Daily/, February 13, 2007.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 20 February 2007
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