China Talks ‘Green’ Olympics But Prepares To Fight Smog | Top news

By Muyu Xu and David Stanway

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – China is using the Winter Olympics to boost its efforts to improve the environment, but the smog-prone capital Beijing is still bracing for the worst as the ceremony draws near. ‘opening.

Beijing has improved air quality since China won its bid to host the Games, but the Ecology and Environment Ministry said the risk of winter smog remained “severe.”

Ministry spokesman Liu Youbin told reporters on Thursday that contingency plans were in place.

“When the time comes, Beijing and Hebei will be guided to adopt reasonable environmental protection measures in accordance with the law,” he said.

Rumors that polluting heavy industries in the region would be closed from January 1 were “not true,” he said.

Critics warned in 2015 – when China won its bid – that the Winter Olympics could be overshadowed by dangerous smog in a region dominated by heavy industry. Chinese President Xi Jinping subsequently pledged to hold a “green” Games, and Hebei pledged to “transform and modernize” its industrial economy.

Since then, China has planted thousands of acres of trees in Beijing and surrounding Hebei province, built sprawling wind and solar farms, and relocated hundreds of businesses.

In Zhangjiakou town, 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Beijing and host to skiing and snowboarding events, amateur skier Deng Zhongping, 26, said he had already felt the difference.

“When I arrived in Beijing a few years ago, I was suffering from rhinitis due to pollution, but the air quality in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei has improved a lot,” he said.

“I think the air quality in Zhangjiakou Ski Resort is even better than in some foreign ski resorts.”

In 2016, the average PM2.5 concentrations in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region were 71 micrograms per cubic meter and soared to over 500 micrograms during the winter. This compares to an average of 40 micrograms from January to September of this year.

The reading in Beijing was 33 micrograms in the first three trimesters, meeting the Chinese standard of 35 micrograms, although it exceeds the World Health Organization recommended level of 5 micrograms and is expected to increase much more during the year. ‘winter.

“China will win many medals at the Winter Olympics, but the smog … could plunge the Games into trouble,” China’s International Environment Fund, based in China, said earlier this year. Washington.

Officials said on a government-sponsored tour this week that the 26 Olympic venues in Beijing and Hebei Province will be powered 100 percent by renewable energy. More than 700 hydrogen vehicles will also be deployed, although the government has not met its hydrogen production target.

Preparations included a tree planting program that increased forest cover in Zhangjiakou to 70% to 80%, from 56% previously.

China has also said it will make the Games “carbon neutral” for the first time. Environmental group Greenpeace, however, said without more data it would be difficult to assess whether the target was actually achieved.

Water scarcity is another concern, especially when it comes to creating artificial snow and ice.

Organizers said the Games would not put additional strain on local water supplies and instead rely on cisterns that collect runoff and precipitation from the mountains during the summer – in line with broader efforts by China to create a “circular” economy in which resources are fully used and recycled.

“We are all self-sufficient and ecologically circular,” said Wang Jingxian, a member of the 2022 Games planning committee.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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