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China Faces Serious Water Supply Problems

Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

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Latham & Watkins - Global Environment, Land & Resources

Wed, 06/06/2018

China’s water supply problems are well-known globally. However, the main problem facing China is how to distribute its water, rather than lack of water per se. 80% of China’s water supply lies in southern China. But this water cannot be used by the population of 12 Chinese provinces representing 41% of its total population, 38% of Chinese agriculture, 46% of its industry, and 50% of its power generation. Eight of these provinces are currently experiencing acute water scarcity, while in four provinces water is merely “scarce,” and two provinces are largely desert. Moreover, the problem is getting worse, with 28,000 rivers in China having dried up over the past 25 years. And China’s appetite for water continues to grow, with consumption forecast to rise to 670 billion cubic meters a year by the early 2020s.


China’s Action Against Plastic Pollution

Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

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Latham & Watkins - Global Environment, Land & Resources

Fri, 04/20/2018

Although China’s ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and air pollution have received global attention and coverage, the country’s significant steps to reduce solid waste pollution have been subject to less scrutiny. Plastics, which are both manufactured and imported into China for recycling in vast quantities, are a case point. The National Development and Reform Commissions (NDRC), China’s key economic planning body, has frequently affirmed its commitment to reducing plastic waste pollution. To further this objective, the NDRC is expected to revise a 2008 order, which banned the production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025 millimetres thick. The order also made it compulsory for retailers to charge customers for plastic bags.


Carbon Markets Must Balance Stability and Adaptability When Implementing Emissions Trading Systems

Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

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Latham & Watkins - Global Environment, Land & Resources

Wed, 04/18/2018

China established its national emissions trading system (ETS) as a key component of the plan to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. The country’s participation in the Paris Agreement is significant not only because it contributes 15% toward total global carbon emissions, but because China was a key proponent of the agreement during its negotiation.

China’s initial hurdle was how to systematically collect the emissions data necessary to design and implement the emissions trading scheme. Accurate and comprehensive emissions data is critical not only for setting the level of the overall cap, but also in determining how free allowances will be allocated to regulated companies. Determining the rate at which the emissions cap declines also requires predicting future emission rates and market demand levels.


The Success of China’s Efforts to Decrease Harmful Pollution Levels

Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

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Latham & Watkins - Global Environment, Land & Resources

Thu, 04/12/2018

In tandem with China’s significant economic growth over the past three decades, coal emissions have soared, increasing from 446 million tonnes in 1990 to 2.6 billion tonnes in 2017. Coal remains, and for some time likely will remain, an important source of fuel for the Chinese economy. However, the harmful effects of coal consumption are evident in the shortening life expectancies of Chinese citizens, particularly in northern China. An individual in the north apparently has an average life expectancy that is approximately 3.1 years shorter than an individual in the south, which has been linked to the burning of coal.

Achieving President Xi Jinping’s promise to “to make the skies blue again” is by no means an easy feat, and the government’s plan is ambitious. Entitled the “Energy Production and Consumption Revolution Strategy”, the plan aims to ensure that emissions reach their highest level in 2030 and decline thereafter, and that by 2050 coal and other fossil fuels make up less than 50% of the country’s energy mix. China has invested heavily in renewable energy, adding more renewable capacity in recent years than any other country.


China to Expand Environmental Regulatory Authority

Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

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Latham & Watkins - Global Environment, Land & Resources

Mon, 03/19/2018

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection’s increased authority over climate change and pollution control issues indicates a greater enforcement role for central government.

The Chinese government has announced a major reorganization of China’s ministries that comprise the Chinese central government at a session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing. The reorganization, which will reduce the number of ministries from 34 to 26, is intended to streamline and strengthen central government’s role in accordance with the principle of “comprehensively deepening reforms,” a key component of President Xi Jinping’s political program.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) will be reconstituted as the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) as part of the reorganization. The MEE’s authority will expand to consolidate pollution-related responsibilities currently allocated among several other ministries, as well as assuming responsibility for climate change policy from the National Development and Reform Commission, a powerful economic planning agency which developed the national emissions trading system launched in late 2017. Specifically, MEE will expand its authority with respect to supervision and prevention of groundwater pollution, wastewater emission control, protection of rivers, non-point source agricultural runoff, protection of oceanic environments, environmental oversight for China’s massive South-North Water Transfer Project, and responsibility for climate change and emissions reduction policies.