Quantcast
Business
Since China launched its "action on air pollution" local governments have been shutting down smaller outdated steel plants.

Beijing Starts the Biggest Shutdown of Steel Factories in History

By Lauri Myllyvirta, Unearthed

Earlier this month and without much comment, dozens of huge steel mills in China stopped or curtailed their operations. In northern China cement plants are preparing to shut down entirely before Christmas.

The measures are a part of an aggressive action plan that aims to cut wintertime particulate pollution by 15 percent year-on-year over the next five months. These cuts are badly needed as Beijing and the surrounding industrial provinces have suffered the winter's first serious episode this week, with PM2.5 levels across several provinces reaching "very unhealthy" levels.


The shutdowns began ahead of the twice-a-decade party congress where President Xi Jinping outlined his vision of a "beautiful China." They are set to take full effect in mid-November and continue throughout the winter.

The operating restrictions affect one quarter of China's total steel-making capacity and approximately 10 percent of cement production.

The measures are expected to cut national steel output by more than 10 percent in the next five months and could avoid as much CO2 as Denmark and Finland emit in one year.

Air Pollution

The steel industry is the dominant source of air pollutant emissions in the Beijing region, as the surrounding Hebei province is the world's largest producer of the metal and has poorer emission control performance than other large producer provinces.

Industrial emissions are responsible for 40-50 percent of the PM2.5 levels in the region, with steel and cement the largest emitting sectors. PM2.5 refers to tiny particles of pollution small enough to pass through the lung into the bloodstream.

The winter action plan on air pollution in northern China was announced this year to inject new momentum into the war on pollution.

Progress on air pollution stalled in the region after a massive stimulus push started by the government in early 2016, leading to a temporary increase in output and prices of steel, cement and other products from highly polluting industries.

Besides curbs on steel, cement and aluminum production, the plan targets household coal use, restricts diesel trucks and stops major construction projects. Brick-making, pottery and other small industries are ordered to close down as well.

It means three million households are to be shifted from coal-burning to electric and gas heating.

Air pollution has hit dangerous levels in recent months in and around Beijing.

Environmental Protection Bureau

The five month shutdowns are temporary, though the plan also creates a new joint environmental protection bureau covering Beijing and the two surrounding provinces and ratchets up enforcement of industrial emission norms.

Improvements in enforcement could have a lasting impact.

Indeed, factory shutdowns are becoming a recurring feature in China's war on air pollution, affecting the profitability of heavy industry and potentially paving the way for reforms that will reduce the economy's reliance on highly polluting sectors in a sustained way.

China's environmental minister Li Ganjie has also emphasized the forward-looking aspect of the campaign, saying: "These special campaigns are not a one-off, instead it is an exploration of long-term mechanisms."

In the short term, major construction projects in the province are also being suspended for the winter period in an effort to control dust emissions.

As the construction sector is by far the largest source of steel demand, the measures will also reduce demand on the partially closed plants.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
TAFE SA TONSLEY / Flickr

Worldwide Clean Energy Investments Hit $333.5 Billion Last Year

Global investment in renewable energy hit $333.5 billion in 2018, the second-highest on record, according to a new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

That's a 3 percent jump from 2016 and 7 percent short of the $360 billion record set in 2015.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

How Blockchain Could Boost Clean Energy

By Jeremy Deaton

Bitcoin, the much-hyped cryptocurrency, made headlines recently for driving a surge in power use. Around the globe, digital entrepreneurs are 'mining' bitcoins by solving complex math problems, using supercomputers to get the job done. Those supercomputers use a ton of power, which largely comes from coal- and gas-fired power plants spewing gobs of carbon pollution.

But while hackers wreak havoc on the climate, blockchain, the bleeding-edge technology behind bitcoin, could one day help clean up the mess. Climate wonks say blockchain has a role to play in the clean-energy economy, helping homeowners sell electricity, allowing businesses to trade carbon credits, and making it easier for governments to track greenhouse gas emissions.

Keep reading... Show less
Abdallah Issa / Flickr

Post-Fire Landslide Problems Likely to Worsen: What Can Be Done?

By Lee MacDonald

Several weeks after a series of wildfires blackened nearly 500 square miles in Southern California, a large winter storm rolled in from the Pacific. In most places the rainfall was welcomed and did not cause any major flooding from burned or unburned hillslopes.

But in the town of Montecito, a coastal community in Santa Barbara County that lies at the foot of the mountains blackened by the Thomas Fire, a devastating set of sediment-laden flows killed at least 20 people and damaged or destroyed more than 500 homes. In the popular press these flows were termed "mudslides," but with some rocks as large as cars these are more accurately described as hyperconcentrated flows or debris flows, depending on the amount of sediment mixed with the water.

Keep reading... Show less
The most notable observation from the count was DeMartino's sighting of the golden crowned kinglet, but in general volunteers found the same species they normally do. (Photo above is of a golden crowned kinglet, but not the one DeMartino spotted.) Melissa McMasters

Birders Get a First Look at How 2017 California Wildfires Affected Wildlife

By Matt Blois

A neighbor knocked on Rick Burgess's door at about 9:30 p.m. to tell him a fire was coming towards his home in Ventura, California. When he looked outside he saw a column of smoke, and the hills were already starting to turn orange. He loaded up his truck with a collection of native plants he was using to write a countywide plant guide, and barely had enough time to get out.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
A learning garden from Kimbal Musk's nonprofit called Big Green. The Kitchen Community

Elon Musk's Brother Wants to Bring #RealFood to 100,000 Schools Across America

Kimbal Musk's nonprofit organization, The Kitchen Community, is expanding into a new, national nonprofit called Big Green, to build hundreds of outdoor Learning Garden classrooms across America.

Learning Gardens teach children an understanding of food, healthy eating and garden skills through experiential learning and garden-based education that tie into existing school curriculum, such as math, science and literacy.

Keep reading... Show less
Drilling fluids spilled into Ohio wetlands during construction of the Rover Pipeline in April. Sierra Club

Rover Pipeline Spills Another 150,000 Gallons of Drilling Fluid Into Ohio Wetlands

Energy Transfer Partners' troubled $4.2 billion Rover pipeline has spilled nearly 150,000 gallons of drilling fluid into wetlands near the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, Ohio—the same site where it released 2 million gallons in April.

The 713-mile pipeline, which will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada, is currently under construction by the same Dallas-based company that built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Large Dams Fail on Climate Change and Indigenous Rights

Brazil has flooded large swaths of the Amazon for hydro dams, despite opposition from Indigenous Peoples, environmentalists and others. The country gets 70 percent of its electricity from hydropower. Brazil's government had plans to expand development, opening half the Amazon basin to hydro. But a surprising announcement could halt that.

Keep reading... Show less
Jim Henderson / Wikimedia Commons

World's Largest Money Manager: Companies Must Respond to Social and Climate Challenges

The world's largest publicly traded companies must take a more active role in solving social issues or face blowback from investors, the CEO of BlackRock said Tuesday.

"To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society," Laurence Fink wrote in his annual letter to CEOs of companies in which BlackRock invests. BlackRock is the world's largest money manager, with more than $6 trillion in assets.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!