Green Ports and Coastal Pollution in China

In the midst of China’s ongoing battle with air pollution, Peng Chuansheng, a leading policy researcher at the China Waterborne Transport Research Institute, Freda Fung, an independent Hong-Kong-based air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions consultant, and Jennifer Turner, Director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center, are exploring methods of addressing the significant impact of China’s shipping ports on coastal air pollution.

At an invite-only Asia Society Northern California round table discussion with the Wilson Center on July 28, 2016, Fung highlighted the importance of cleaning up China and Hong Kong’s shipping sector. “China’s ports sit at the intersection of high population, choking pollution, and rapid growth,” stated Fung, adding that “if we want to pick a place to clean and deliver the most benefits, then we must pick China.” She revealed that robust enforcement at the Port of Hong Kong led to significant air quality improvements, with sulfur dioxide levels near the ports dropping 50-60% since 2015. “Cleaning up China’s ports is very important to the world and the Chinese government is determined to do more; one day, we may be able to see the beautiful skyline of Hong Kong.”

On China’s green port practices, Peng focused on China’s “Specialized Action Plan of Ship and Port Pollution Prevention and Control from 2015-2020,” a list of actions that China will take in combatting port pollution. “We need to convert electricity at ports to power ships, and are testing the results of this system with six pilot projects,” he stated. On establishing ship Emission Control Zones, Peng explained, “Starting next year, ships must implement existing international conventions and regulations for emission control.”

Turner discussed the China Environment Forum’s Choke Point Global Project, which focuses on how the energy sector impacts water resources in China. “20% of all water used in China goes to the coal sector, yet no one thought to look into this number. The bottom line is that China does not have enough water for everything – there is a huge water footprint,” said Turner. “We chose (the name) ‘Choke Point Cities’ because cities are the big driver of where the energy is going.”