Grey smog engulfed Beijing earlier this week, triggering the capital’s first red pollution alert. The alert is the highest of a four-tier warning scale, part of the capital’s emergency air pollution response system, which came into force in 2013 and is triggered following an Air Quality Index value greater than 200 for three consecutive days. Officials in Beijing responded by closing schools and placing restrictions on pollution emitting activities.
The source of the smog was officially attributed to vehicle emissions. However, China’s heavy reliance on coal for heating and electricity generation is another major factor behind the city’s air pollution. Officials plan to provide incentives to coal plants to cap emissions under nationally-set thresholds. Mounting pressure from the public over the health implications is placing increasing pressure on officials to address the issue and reverse pollution trends in Beijing.
To improve air quality and meet China’s pledge to cut carbon emissions, the nation would need to invest some $389bn and increase climate change investment by 4% each year, according to a study by Research Center for Climate and Energy Finance under the Beijing-based Central University of Finance and Economics.At the Paris climate change conference, which finished on Saturday, China’s official position was that emissions would peak by 2030. Officials also said they expected renewables and nuclear to grow to supply a fifth of the nation’s energy requirements.
The Paris Agreement reached at the end of COP21 calls for temperature increases to be limited to two degrees Celsius, and for the first time challenges countries to work towards limiting them to 1.5 degrees; it says nations should work towards a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 sinks such as new forestry in the second half of this century; sets a five-yearly schedule for assessment of whether emission reduction efforts are sufficient; helps island nations threatened by sea level rise; and outlines an ambition for climate finance for developing countries after 2020 to exceed the current goal of $100bn a year.
The deal has produced two reactions among clean energy experts – one being excitement at the peer-group pressure now established on countries to bring about change; and the other being disappointment at the lack of concrete results. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s first reaction, published just after the agreement was announced on Saturday, is available to clients here. Michael Liebreich’s view will be available tomorrow on the BNEF blog. In regulatory news last week, the European Union took the German government to court following the breach of a 2006 EU law prohibiting the use of the refrigerant R-134a for car air-conditioning systems. German-based Daimler is the company at the centre of the case after refusing to switch to a more climate-friendly coolant. German authorities are accused of failing to ensure conformity with EU law.
European authorities continued to hold European member nations accountable for breaches of EU legislation. Poland became the latest country to be taken to court after its air pollution levels consistently surpassed EU norms. As a member of the European Union, Poland has renewable energy targets to meet as part of the bloc’s overarching objective. The Polish government, however, has stated its intention to use coal as its main source of electricity for at least 30 years. The plans conflict with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive and the commitments of other EU member states.Volkswagen last week announced plans to provide the results of an investigation into its emissions manipulation. The move is said to be part of efforts to improve transparency and move beyond the scandal that emerged in September this year. The carmaker faces significant fines and penalties after it was found to have installed 11 million diesel cars with cheating software.
Finally, the Turkish government has announced plans to close a loophole that allows solar projects less than 1MW to avoid an expensive licensing procedure. The move, which is examined in detail in an Analyst Reaction published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week, will involve imposing stricter rules on unlicensed projects, that is, projects below 1MW. The plans would limit the capacity that any single entity can connect to a transformer substation to 1MW. In addition, the changes would place limits on the trade of permits to build unlicensed projects before build. Turkish solar developers are said to be unconcerned about the changes as they have plans to continue to develop by splitting up projects between investors.