Confusion Reigns Over China’s Energy Policy
By Kieran Cooke
It's quite easy these days to find yourself muddled over China's energy policy: it often seems to amount to tackling domestic pollution and climate change, but chasing lucrative contracts abroad, despite the environmental impact.
With the U.S. under Donald Trump indicating it wants to withdraw from the Paris agreement, China is increasingly seen as a world leader in the battle to cut carbon emissions and prevent climate catastrophe.
But overseas, China is pursuing a very different policy. Here in Serbia a Chinese enterprise, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), recently started work on a multi-million dollar project to enlarge the coal-fired Kostolac power station on the banks of the Danube river in the east of the country.
Under the terms of the $715 million contract, the Chinese will build an additional 350 MW unit at Kostolac and expand operations at a nearby opencast mine producing lignite—the "dirtiest" coal
Urgewald, a Berlin-based environmental group, calculates that Chinese companies are at present involved in plans to build about a fifth of new coal-fired energy capacity around the world—in countries including Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Vietnam and Malawi.
In some of these countries there is little or no coal-powered generation at present; building coal plants is likely to prevent the development of other, less polluting energy sources and lock in high emission power structures for years to come.
China has used its considerable financial muscle to back up its global coal campaign; Chinese state banks are estimated to have provided more than $40 billion in loans over the past 18 years for building coal-fired power plants overseas. The majority of the funding for Serbia's Kostolac project is being provided by China's state-owned Export-Import Bank.
More than 70 percent of Serbia's energy comes from coal. Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), the Serbian state company which has a monopoly on electricity production, says the new plant, to be in operation by 2020, will meet the highest environmental standards and is necessary to satisfy ever-rising domestic energy demand.
The Centre for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS), a Belgrade-based group which has won international awards for its exposés of corruption within Serbia, has raised a number of concerns about the Kostolac project and how EPS—with what's considered its opaque financial structure and its strong links to the country's political elite—negotiated with the Chinese.
It says thorough environmental impact assessments were not carried out on the project and, contrary to international regulations, Romania—whose border is less than 20 kilometers (approximately 12 miles) from the Kostolac plant—was not consulted on the impact of the facility's expansion.
CINS also questions aspects of the contract between China and Serbia, which it says gives courts in China full power of arbitration in the event of any dispute; there are added concerns about the many hundreds of workers from China building the new plant, with few companies from Serbia itself involved in construction at Kostolac.
People living near Kostolac—with houses close to the opencast mine which feeds the power plant—say there is a high rate of respiratory disease in the area; houses have also been damaged by land subsidence.
Serbia is in negotiations to join the European Union; critics of the country's energy policy say that in the future the government in Belgrade could incur fines of millions of dollars levied by Brussels because of emissions from power plants such as Kostolac.
The Serbian government says aging and highly polluting power plants like Kostolac have to be upgraded or replaced.
Chinese companies are heavily involved in developing coal power projects elsewhere in the Balkans region, most recently advancing millions of dollars in loans for the expansion of coal-fired power in Bosnia.
World's Biggest Floating Solar Farm Goes Live on Top of a Former Coal Mine https://t.co/UufHfdlrq4 #solar #renewableenergy #coal @EcoWatch— DeSmogBlog (@DeSmogBlog)1503614408.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
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What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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