Rhein on Energy and Climate

From November 3 to 11 Beijing is hosting an APEC Summit, which 20 Heads of Government from the Pacific region will attend.

To that end, the local authorities have undertaken utmost efforts to clean up their city, which is one the most polluted on earth.

The streets are “empty” because schools, local government, public and private companies send their students and staff on temporary leave. This enables the authorities to halve the number of cars on the roads, according to even and uneven number plates.

The air is “clean” because some 300 energy-intensive factories around Beijing have to close down or reduce their activities during the Summit. Public works within the city are temporarily suspended.

The APEC meeting can therefore take place in a beautiful, clean and quiet city that in reality does no longer exist; and the international visitors can return home with the impression that China is finally coming to grips with pollution, something its citizens have been demanding for years.

After this impressive “clean-up” in Beijing popular pressure on local and central government is bound to grow to tackle air pollution and thus help reigning in rising health costs and climate-related natural catastrophes.

This will require phasing out coal-fired power plants,and introducing equipment to eliminate small particles in factory-chimneys as well as less-polluting vehicles.

The Chinese political establishment is becoming increasingly aware of these risks and would be well advised not to further delay urgent action.

The Chinese position at the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015 will show to what extent awareness will have turned into action.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 5/11/2014


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