If you’re not already subscribed to our Almost Daily newsletter, then you probably missed it, so here’s the recap of the breaking news we got on August 18th.
“Shandong’s Zibo city government has issued a document that releases the screws, just a little, on the environmental inspections and the winter heating season cuts.
Essentially, the announcement that we just saw tonight is predicated on the principle that “one size does not fit all”. The announcement says that if you are close to meeting the standards, and are working hard to meet the requirements, you need not shut down.
Zibo city does not have any aluminium smelters, though it does have some downstream factories. Zibo, like many cities in Shandong, suffers from excessive pollution. But the local authorities are now saying, “It’s okay, if you are working to meet the standards, and the impact is small, there’s no need to shut your factory.”
This is hugely important in the greater context, though not so much in Zibo. We understand the the authorities in Beijing have been disappointed with the over-reaction coming from some corners. Factories were being ordered to close despite their hard work to meet increasingly tough standards, and local authorities were blindly applying a common rule to test everybody, regardless of individual circumstances.
This move by Zibo is likely to lead to other cities taking the same more relaxed attitude. As we understand this document, it applies not just to the winter heating season cuts, but across the board to the entire environmental push. Local economics are now taking precedence over the national agenda. They are saying, “environmental protection politics should not affect peoples’ lives.”
The document we have sighted is from Zibo city – there is no document from Beijing – yet. It doesn’t mean that everything is returning to the bad old days of pollution, but it does mean that the government is seeking to correct the excesses appearing in the execution of their current strategy.”
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