Arctic Ocean and Wildlife Warrant Special International Protection

Co-authored by Alex Levinson and Kevin Harun, Pacific Environment

First published in High North News and Huffington Post

Imagine traveling seas beset by hurricane force winds, extreme waves, poorly charted waters, and long seasons of darkness. Where calls for help may not be readily answered. Now, imagine pristine seas where exotic wildlife, some traveling great distances to feed or have their young, are found in abundance. A place that has sustained capable, local people for millenniums.

This is not a science fiction adventure to some far off planet. Instead, both descriptions could be applied to navigating Arctic waters. Both fearsome and plentiful, the arctic merits special attention.

Amidst the recent troubling news that Shell Oil has received conditional approval to drill in Arctic waters, a separate, critical victory for the larger Arctic ecosystem was overshadowed.

After over a decade of negotiations, international rules are set to provide mandatory protections for the Arctic Ocean. The new laws, known as the Polar Code, are being enacted by a United Nations agency and will be the first mandatory protections for polar waters. Why is this exceptional? Because the international community for the first time is formally recognizing that Arctic seas and wildlife warrant special safeguards.

The Arctic Ocean includes some of the world’s richest and most extraordinary marine resources – pristine fisheries, an abundance of marine mammals, and densely populated sea bird nesting colonies. Indigenous peoples in Alaska, Russia, Canada, and elsewhere across the Arctic continue to practice traditional ways of life that rely on Arctic coastal waters for food.

But now, the sea ice is melting – possibly to disappear entirely in the summer as early as 2020. Oil companies, mining industries, and many nations are racing to industrialize and “harvest” the resources of this “new ocean” emerging from the ice. Commercial shipping is accelerating in these remote regions despite the extreme risks to mariners and the environment.

The arctic marine environment is remote, dangerous, fragile – and severe. Storms routinely reach hurricane force, waters are ice-filled and poorly mapped, communication systems can easily fail, and substantive spill response or search and rescue can be thousands of miles and weeks away.

The new Polar Code is the first step toward wholesale recognition that Arctic waters and wildlife are unique and deserve special protections. The Code requires that ship captains plan their routes to avoid marine mammals. The Code bans ships from dumping oily wastes and garbage. It imposes important rules for ships operating in remote, ice-choked waters regarding their design, operations, sailor training, and search and rescue requirements.

The Polar Code is a critical first achievement, but it fails to tackle some of the most dangerous remaining threats – highlighting the need for the international community to quickly adopt additional protective provisions via a second phase.

The number one need is to ban heavy fuel oil. The Arctic Council – a forum for Arctic nations and peoples — has identified a spill of heavy fuel oil as the greatest potential threat to Arctic marine resources. This oil – thicker, more viscous, and dirtier than lighter grades – is both shipped as cargo and used as a transport fuel by ships transiting Arctic seas. Because it does not evaporate, heavy fuel oil in severe Arctic conditions would be virtually impossible to clean up if spilled, for example, in waters where arctic birds and wildlife concentrate.

For these reasons, heavy fuel oil was banned in Antarctic waters in 2010. It should be kept out of Arctic waters too.

A revised Polar Code should also regulate “black carbon” emissions from ships – which are known to accelerate ice melt and climate change – and much more stringently regulate ships unprepared for icy, stormy waters thousands of miles from aid.

Environmental accomplishments are hard to come by and need to be celebrated. We’re toasting with champagne this week to acknowledge the achievement that the nations of the world have recognized the Arctic Ocean’s special fragility. But we’ll put away the champagne glasses tomorrow and get back to work. We need to ensure that this week’s accomplishment is only the beginning of a more comprehensive protective scheme for one of the earth’s great natural regions.

Alex Levinson and Kevin Harun are, respectively, the CEO and Arctic Director of Pacific Environment, an international environmental group that has partnered with local and indigenous communities in Russia, China, California, and the Alaskan Arctic for more than two decades.

Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Bering Sea, Global, Marine, Oceans, Policy, Shipping | Comments Off on Arctic Ocean and Wildlife Warrant Special International Protection

Arctic Peoples and Wildlife Receive Unique, Historic Protection


Today, we celebrate a historic win for the Arctic, its wildlife, and its peoples. After years of negotiations, at 9 a.m. London time, the international community agreed to establish some special protections for this magnificent region.


The new laws, known as the Polar Code, forbid ships traversing the Arctic to dump garbage, sewage, and oil into the ocean. They also require that ship captains avoid large groupings of marine mammals when planning their routes through the Arctic.


Over the past three years, Pacific Environment’s hard-hitting advocacy and intense coalition work helped convince U.S. federal agencies and other countries to support strong protections for ocean life via regulations of shipping in Arctic seas.


Polar bear, walrus, and other Arctic wildlife are threatened by pollution from ships traversing fragile Arctic waters.

Polar bears, walrus, and other Arctic wildlife are threatened by pollution from ships traversing fragile Arctic waters.

Amidst the troubling news about Shell oil drilling this week, these protections don’t come a minute too soon. Sea ice is melting, and oil companies, mining businesses, and nations are racing to industrialize and “harvest” the resources of this “new ocean” emerging from the ice.


Commercial shipping is accelerating in these remote waters despite the extreme risks to mariners and the environment. There are long seasons of darkness, storms routinely reach hurricane force with extreme waves, the waters are filled with dangerous ice and poorly mapped, communication systems can easily fail. This is a region so remote that calls for help may not be readily answered. The next facility with people and equipment capable of responding to a severe accident or oil spill may be thousands of miles and weeks away.


Now there will be rules in place that protect some of the world’s richest and most extraordinary marine resources—pristine fisheries, an abundance of marine mammals, and densely populated sea bird nesting colonies. Indigenous peoples in Alaska, Russia, Canada, and elsewhere across the Arctic continue to practice traditional ways of life that rely on Arctic coastal waters for food.


Although these new rules establish important protections, they don’t go far enough. We will spend the next year to make sure that other critical issues will be regulated in a second version of the Polar Code: the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (which is nearly impossible to clean up in the event of an oil spill); reduction of black carbon (the most important contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide); dangerous toxic emissions from onboard ship incineration (which harm human health and marine mammals); and disposal of ballast and grey water (which may contain harmful chemicals and invasive species).


Still, let’s take a minute to enjoy this achievement. Tomorrow, our fight for the Arctic continues.


Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Bering Sea, Marine, Oceans, Policy, Russia, Shipping | Comments Off on Arctic Peoples and Wildlife Receive Unique, Historic Protection

Coal Declines Worldwide – Even in China


“Worldwide, for every new coal plant built, two have been shelved or cancelled since 2010…. In China, coal use declined in 2014, signaling the start of a shift towards greater reliance on renewable energy. And, in the U.S., over 77,000 megawatts of coal energy have retired or are slated to retire.”

This good news comes from Boom and Bust: Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline, published this week by CoalSwarm and the Sierra Club. The report, together with a new online interactive map, Global Coal Tracker, describes the state of coal use worldwide.

A Chinese language version of the Global Coal Tracker was released this week as well as part of a new website– (“The Coal Problem”). This new online resource shares information on China’s coal industry and the health and environmental impacts of coal.

Coal Tracker

A Chinese-language version of the Global Coal Tracker shows proposed coal power plants and their development status across China.


China’s central government has signaled a commitment to reducing the country’s reliance on coal, but this alone won’t be enough.

The coal tracker shows that while some provinces have canceled projects in an effort to improve air quality, other provinces are lagging behind. What is surprising to see is that even some of China’s wealthiest provinces (e.g., Jiangsu and Guangdong) have ramped up their use of coal power in recent years, rather than switching to a cleaner (and healthier) energy mix. The coal tracker also suggests that local governments are still incentivized to cash in on coal, and that a lot more coal-fired power plants are being built in China than are needed to meet energy demand.

Pacific Environment and our partner Waterkeeper Alliance support a network of grassroots organizations that are watch-dogging the coal industry to increase industry transparency and push for better implementation of environmental laws, national and regional coal caps, and pollution reduction targets. The coal tracker will help them and a broad range of concerned citizens across China identify coal industry trends and ensure a cleaner energy future for all.

Find out more about Pacific Environment’s air pollution and coal work in China here.



Posted in China, Civil Society, Climate Change, Coal, Communities, Energy, Grassroots Activism | Comments Off on Coal Declines Worldwide – Even in China

Building a Cleaner China from the Grassroots Up


First published in China-US Focus

In a mid-sized industrial city in China, a staff member of the environmental group Green Hope answers her cell phone. On the line is a middle manager at Pearl Steel Group who is calling to ask about a report Green Hope issued on air pollution from the company’s nearby flagship steel plant. In recent years, the municipal environmental protection bureau had fined the plant several times for violations of their pollution permits, but Green Hope’s report – which details these violations alongside photo evidence and testimonials from rural residents living near the plant – finally spurred the company to take action. The company manager asks for a meeting with Green Hope staff to discuss how it might better control its pollution as well as more fully share environmental information with the public.

While this particular story is fictional, events of this kind, which were unthinkable even a few years ago, have become an increasingly common occurrence across China. Brought by stronger regulatory support for public engagement in environmental affairs and a widespread concern about China’s devastating levels of pollution, China’s local environmental groups are finding themselves well positioned to ensure that government promises for a cleaner, greener future are realized.

Space for grassroots environmental action in China has grown in recent years thanks to several key regulatory changes. The first is in the area of data sharing. Citizens are able to access more information than ever about pollution and polluters following the passage of  information disclosure laws in 2008. China’s newly revised environmental law, which came into force January 1, 2015, takes accountability a step further by requiring real-time disclosure of pollution discharge data from key industries. And since the law also allows the government to fine polluters more, and more often, factories that routinely discharge illegal amounts now face a regulatory system that could actually do damage to their bottom line.

The new environmental law also requires that governments respond to citizen accusations against polluters, and clarifies that non-governmental organizations have the right to bring environmental lawsuits. A recent Supreme Peoples’ Court interpretation confirmed that China’s local courts will now be instructed to hear cases brought by citizen groups, including public interest cases. Many environmental groups are positioning themselves to take advantage of this new sphere of action.

Meanwhile, air pollution has become so critical across China that last year Premier Li Keqiang declared a “war on pollution” and the State Council revealed a far-reaching Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan. This included absolute limits on particulate pollution in certain regions of China, and bold wording on “widely mobilizing citizen participation” to help deal with the mounting crisis.

The national government of China is clearly sending a green light to citizen groups to take an active part in forging a more sustainable development path. But what happens region by region and city by city depends on how committed local government actors are to making tough changes – and the extent to which local watchdog groups (like Green Hope) are able to negotiate the space available for participation and advocacy.

One challenge is that local government officials are often unsure of the role civil society groups can and should play. In many cases, environmental groups can and do tactfully remind government departments about their duties to disclose information and listen to public concerns. And in fact, due to these efforts, many local environmental protection bureaus now see grassroots environmental groups as key allies, acting as “eyes and ears” on the ground, and bringing pressure for resolution of problems that officials have been unable to solve themselves.

But attitudes towards grassroots environmental groups varies between government departments as well as between regions. Where environmental enforcement is already a priority, such as developed regions along China’s coastline, citizen groups have an easier time making headway against polluters. For example, some local governments already have aggressive plans to phase out dirty energy; as with Hangzhou municipality’s “zero coal” plan which will phase out coal boilers in two years. In places like Hangzhou, local environmental groups have an important role to play in ensuring these government clean-up plans are enforced. But getting local governments in less-developed “energy frontier” regions to take better care of the environment can be more challenging. High profile scandals in coal development provinces of China have demonstrated some government officials are not only aware of industry misdeeds, they are themselves part of the problem.

More could certainly be done by China’s leaders to facilitate widespread citizen enforcement and engagement– such as enshrining participation principles in China’s next five year plan. But to a large extent China’s environmental groups are already succeeding at turning these principals into reality by setting up independent pollution monitoring networks, pollution reporting hotlines, and online pollution information platforms. Moreover, they are helping ordinary citizens become productively engaged in seeking solutions. For example, in September of 2014, the Beijing based Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs released a cell phone app that allows citizens to monitor pollution discharge data in real time and draws the link between specific sources of air pollution and air quality. Just by releasing the app, some 65 industries came forward with a pledge to correct their pollution record.

More has to be done– China’s water and air pollution issues have never been more severe. But the good news is at least in some parts of China, long-time polluters are feeling the squeeze of robust pollution regulations combined with actual on-the-ground enforcement. And China’s grassroots environmental groups are usually the reason better enforcement happens.

Posted in Capacity-Building, China, Civil Society, Climate Change, Communities, Grassroots Activism | Comments Off on Building a Cleaner China from the Grassroots Up

Keeping the Amur River Wild and Free

The Amur River is the largest, still free-flowing river in Asia, and its basin the most biodiverse region in Russia. But its vast forests, wetlands, and steppes, as well as its endemic tigers, leopards, cranes, and bears are threatened by a voracious demand for energy and natural resources.


Large-scale dam building threatens the mighty Amur River basin, the largest, still free-flowing river system in Asia.


Drawing on lessons learned over the past 25 years, Pacific Environment’s new report, Conservation Investment Strategy for the Russian Far East,  reflects the geographical and strategic priorities identified by some of the world’s most respected experts on the region.

In addition to Arctic ice ecosystems in Chukotka and salmon ecosystems throughout the Far East, the Amur River basin was selected as one of three high-priority regions for future conservation investments.

As the most promising strategies for success in the Amur River basin, the report’s experts recommend focusing on stopping proposed dams on the Amur River and quickly expanding the Amur’s protected areas to include its vast wetlands.

Eugene Simonov, a longtime partner of Pacific Environment, is a successful grassroots activists and one of the world’s foremost experts on the region. He is spearheading Rivers without Boundaries, a coalition of grassroots environmental groups from Russia, China, Mongolia, and the U.S. that seeks to preserve river basins in northeast Eurasia through joint advocacy and promotion of best practices in river management.


In the following Q&A, Eugene highlights the global importance of the Amur River basin.

Q: Why is the Amur River Basin so important for global conservation efforts?

BESIDES ITS OBVIOUS GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY VALUE and outstanding qualities of free-flowing river, the Amur is also an important example of sharp contrasts among countries—natural, cultural, economic, psychological. Russia, Mongolia, and China essentially belong to three different civilizational roots and each of the countries dominated the whole Amur Basin at one time in history. You can hardly find another river basin on Earth that is so deeply divided. You have the country with the biggest appetite for natural resources bordering countries that believe their resources are boundless. Yet they share one river ecosystem and understand they have to protect their common environment, despite the desire to extract and transport natural resources. The future of the Amur depends on where they strike the balance and whether they find adequate common language to agree on rules of cooperation. This is a unique experiment that has a lot to tell us about the solutions to global problems.

Q: The Amur Basin has a well-developed civil society and a wealth of scientists and experts working on conservation. But the region is so vast and there are so many conservation challenges, what is the ultimate priority?

FOR FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS, THE GREATEST PRIORITY is to agree on new ecologically sound objectives for common river basin management. Once upon a time, in 1986, Russia and China agreed to ruin this river completely by a chain of hydropower dams in the main stem. The Amur was saved partly because of mutual mistrust, and partly because of a huge educational effort undertaken by conservationists. We have yet to replace the mechanical ideal of artificial reservoirs generating energy with a more sustainable, mutually agreeable management goal.

Q: The 2013 flooding may have been good for the Amur River and its flora and fauna, but it devastated many communities, and resulted in new calls for more dams and flood control infrastructure. How can people value the natural river when it’s a threat to their livelihoods, even lives?

PEOPLE OF THEIR FREE WILL HAVE CHOSEN TO SETTLE IN FLOOD-PRONE AREAS because of their proximity to water, naturally fertilized floodplain soil, abundance of fish, and so on. They do value the natural river. Even at the height of the 2013 floods, polls showed that most people didn’t see dams as a remedy for floods. Funds that the government is now trying to earmark for building new dams could be better used for modernization and adaptation of riverine municipalities, so new settlement infrastructure and economy are better adapted to floods and droughts. Russian regions along the Amur do not lack land resources, so there are opportunities to avoid this conflict just by not building residences and production facilities in the floodplains.

Q: Even if Russian citizens and authorities were to implement the most rigorous conservation standards and practices, won’t China’s voracious appetites for raw materials still overwhelm the Russian Far East?

THE REAL QUESTION IS WHETHER RUSSIAN AND CHINESE AUTHORITIES and businesses could develop and enforce such rigorous standards and practices. The two countries share many environmental objectives (like tiger protection or river pollution prevention). Success is not granted, but quite feasible.

Posted in Biodiversity, China, Civil Society, Communities, Energy, Forests, Freshwater, Grassroots Activism, Rivers, Russia, Russia Community Partners, Russian Far East | Comments Off on Keeping the Amur River Wild and Free

Our Top 7 Wins of 2014


It has been a banner year for us and our local partners on the frontlines of environmental justice around the Pacific Rim.

Here are seven accomplishments I’m especially proud of; they would not have been possible without your support.


Bear and Kronotsky Volcano

Preserving Untouched Wilderness

The Russian Far East is a region of unparalleled wilderness, rich in biodiversity and vast intact ecosystems. But polar bears, walrus, tigers, and leopards are under threat from massive logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling projects. Over the past two years, we worked with dozens of scientists and grassroots activists to develop conservation plans that will help local people protect the region’s unique ecosystems, carbon-gulping forests, and endangered wildlife—even as the Russian government continues to increase the repression of local environmental heroes.



Protecting the Arctic

We protected walrus, bowhead whales, narwhals, seals, polar bears, and other wildlife from the severe harm posed by increased ship traffic in Arctic seas. As a result of our hard-hitting advocacy at the United Nations agency responsible for writing international maritime laws, ships will not be allowed to dump garbage and oil in Arctic waters, and they will be required to avoid marine wildlife on their journey. We also won a historic commitment from the U.S. to help safeguard indigenous cultural and subsistence traditions in the Arctic.


04_Blue Dalian Water Testing 2013yeacrop

Attacking Pollution

We helped Chinese grassroots activists intensify and expand the scope of their watchdog and whistleblowing activities. Our partners are becoming ever more successful at identifying illegal industrial pollution that poisons the country’s water and air. Together with their growing networks of citizen volunteers, our partners feed pollution information to the media to pressure local governments and businesses to clean up their act. Our partners are also increasing their use of sophisticated legal tactics to seek justice for pollution victims in China’s courts.



Safeguarding Endangered Whales

We halted attempts by the oil industry to weaken protections for the critically endangered Western gray whale when the industry tried to dismantle a panel of whale scientists. We frequently work with these scientists to ensure that oil drilling activities off the coast of Sakhalin Island in Russia’s sub-Arctic don’t push the remaining 150 whales to extinction.



Exposing Corruption

We exposed a massive illegal coal base on the Tibetan Plateau. The story made international headlines after local government officials in China initially tried to cover it up for fear of being charged with corruption. Our exposure of the illegal coal base resulted in the closure of operations located within a natural reserve and stronger oversight of coal mining and processing activities in Western China.



Challenging Shell Oil

We and our allies achieved a historic win when a federal court called into question the legality of the oil and gas leases the Bush administration sold to Shell and other oil companies in the mid-2000s. Following this win, Shell announced that it was cancelling its Arctic drilling plans for 2014. The company’s shareholders are also getting nervous—not least due to reports like Frozen Future, which we co-authored to expose the huge financial risks of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic’s treacherous waters.


Suren Gazaryan in Tallnin's Old Town, Estonia

Supporting Environmental Heroes

We successfully nominated our partner, Suren Gazaryan, for the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize—the Nobel Prize for grassroots environmental activists. Suren courageously called out Vladimir Putin and prominent Russian oligarchs for illegally building summer homes in national parks along Russia’s iconic Black Sea coast. He also battled illegal logging and construction in Sochi National Park for the 2014 Olympic Games.


Thank you for standing in solidarity with grassroots environmental leaders around the Pacific Rim!

Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Bering Sea, Biodiversity, Capacity-Building, China, Civil Society, Climate Change, Coal, Communities, Energy, Fisheries, Forests, Freshwater, Global, Grassroots Activism, Kamchatka, Marine, Oceans, offshore drilling, Rivers, Russia, Russia Community Partners, Russian Far East, Sakhalin, Salmon, Shipping, Sustainable Development, Water | Comments Off on Our Top 7 Wins of 2014

New Strategies for Conservation Success in Russia


Russia’s Far East and Arctic are regions of unparalleled wilderness, rich in biodiversity and vast intact ecosystems. The region is also home to dozens of indigenous cultures, endangered wildlife, and forests so vast they are only rivaled by the Amazon’s.

Over the past two years, Pacific Environment has worked with dozens of community leaders, conservationists, and scientists to identify the best opportunities for conservation success in Russia’s Far East and Arctic.

Drawing on lessons learned over the past 25 years, our new report, Conservation Investment Strategy for the Russian Far East, establishes a forward-thinking set of priorities to help us, our partners on the ground, foundations, and allied organizations achieve important conservation successes in the next decade–even in a changing, and often difficult, political climate.

The report reflects the geographical and strategic priorities identified by some of the world’s most respected experts on the region:



Climate change is altering the Arctic’s ice-dependent ecology, threatening wildlife and indigenous cultures. The walrus is the cornerstone of indigenous economy and culture, since it is also the only source of food for local communities during severe Arctic winters. The report shows how indigenous communities and international conservationists can collaborate to protect walrus habitats and facilitate international policies to protect Arctic peoples and ecosystems.




The most biodiverse region in Russia, the Amur River’s vast forests and endemic tigers, leopards, cranes, and bears are threatened by a voracious demand for natural resources. Russian conservationists have been collaborating with Chinese counterparts to create international protected areas. The report recommends stopping proposed dams on the Amur River and quickly expanding the Amur’s protected areas to include its vast wetlands.




The rivers in the Russian Far East are inhabited by more than half the world’s wild salmon. But the salmon’s survival is threatened by commercial-scale poaching and industrial pollution. In Sakhalin, a coalition of conservationists and commercial fishing companies created a park that protects the most important salmon rivers. In Kamchatka, indigenous peoples have teamed up with park rangers to arrest poachers. The report recommends quickly scaling up these initiatives to prevent the extinction of threatened salmon species.


In addition, the report includes a discussion of current conditions affecting conservation in the region, including systemic threats, legislation, politics, and international conservation policy and examples of recommended strategies and best practices, presented in the form of case studies of successful conservation initiatives.


Get your copy now!





Posted in Arctic, Bering Sea, Biodiversity, Capacity-Building, Civil Society, Climate Change, Communities, Fisheries, Forests, Freshwater, Grassroots Activism, Kamchatka, Marine, Oceans, Rivers, Russia, Russia Community Partners, Russian Far East, Sakhalin, Salmon, Sustainable Development, Uncategorized | Comments Off on New Strategies for Conservation Success in Russia

Why Citizen Participation Should Be Encouraged in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan


By Alex Levinson and Kristen McDonald

First published in chinadialogue.

In the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the leaders of China should, once and for all, enshrine the principle that protection of the public’s health and the nation’s water, air and other critical natural resources is of the same importance as economic prosperity. Creating a unified mandate – the explicit linking of economic growth with protection of the public health and environment – would be a powerful statement and symbol to the citizens of China.

To breathe life into the symbol will require sustained implementation and enforcement of the various, frequently strong, health and environmental laws China has adopted, including its recently revised Environment Law. There are many additional environmental measures that the 13th Five-Year Plan might include: a national coal cap, maximum daily pollution restrictions and strict limits on small particulate matter (PM 2.5) for all Chinese cities, for example. Ultimately, however, what is most needed to protect the public health and environment is a stronger mandate for citizen collaboration in solving the nation’s water and air-pollution problems.

Citizen engagement takes two forms: implementation and enforcement. To ensure implementation, the 13th Five-Year Plan should direct regional and local governments to maximise public participation – by interested individuals, non-governmental organisations, academic research institutions and others – in determining the best local anti-pollution measures to meet strict national standards. 

To ensure enforcement, the plan should require that, once local priorities are set and planning decisions made, the public is authorised to help the government identify violators in the community and help craft solutions to remedy violations. And it should introduce stronger top-down incentives to encourage local officials to better enforce environmental and public-participation standards, as well as publicly disseminated “report cards” to hold them accountable for doing so.

To facilitate meaningful, effective citizen involvement in addressing local pollution, the 13th Five-Year Plan should require that all polluting companies (not just selected key industries) install real time pollution monitoring equipment and release monitoring data in a manner that’s easily accessible to the public. It should also call for broad dissemination of pollution survey data compiled by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, since this is the kind of data that can currently be used in court by citizens as evidence of pollution violations. Correspondingly, the plan should emphasise that citizens and non-governmental organisations are authorised and encouraged to bring public interest environmental lawsuits against illegal polluters and that courts should hear such pollution cases in a timely manner.

A critical ally

To give an example of how public engagement measures can work, regional and local governments are currently working on new clean air plans called for in the 12th Five-Year Plan and the State Council Directive of September 2013. Naturally, the first iterations of these plans will fall short; they will be experimental attempts to identify how to clean up local air-pollution problems. Local communities possess a wealth of knowledge about practical solutions and the best trade-offs that must be made to maintain economic growth and improve air quality. To obtain local input, governments could host public participation events throughout their jurisdictions and invite public comments on draft local clean air plans, which would be widely circulated.

Citizen participation from the beginning would help ensure that the new plans and new policies include measures to ensure that they will actually be strongly enforced – measures such as clear pollution limits and reporting requirements for specific types of polluting factories, public access to that information and clarity about when and how individuals and civic organisations may seek court remedies if the clean air plans are not followed. With these types of measures in place, the public would be a critical ally to local government officials charged with redressing excessive pollution.

Local governments and local communities, working together, can solve China’s pressing pollution challenges. The 13th Five-Year Plan should mandate an environmental protection system that ensures that local governments collaborate fully with the public they serve.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Why Citizen Participation Should Be Encouraged in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan

It’s Time to End the Age of Coal


We’re excited to announce the launch today of, a user-friendly website that provides information and resources about the dangers of coal and the solutions to meeting global energy needs.


EndCoal-SocialMedia-Ad-climatechange is a place where the global movement to stop coal can share its stories, resources, and news, and where people new to coal can come to learn about how to fight this dirty energy source. The site has been developed by a suite of environmental, social justice and health advocates from around the world, including Pacific Environment. is a hub for all matters coal-related, including resources on the nexus between coal and health, water, climate change, finance and economics, and coal mining. It features the latest news on coal, plus blogs from some of the leading international writers and activists on coal. The site also hosts a brand new interactive map and database that tracks all planned coal plants around the world since 2010.




Need to know how much coal contributes to climate change? Curious about how many people die per year from coal pollution? Want to find the latest reports about coal’s impacts on water? Need quick stats on how many coal plants are planned around the world? answers all these questions and many more.


Visit it today and visit it often for updates and news!

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Global | Comments Off on It’s Time to End the Age of Coal

Bank of America: Bankrolling the Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef

UPDATE: Bank of America heard you and is showing some positive signs of movement. Stay tuned for more information on new developments.

The Great Barrier Reef is a global treasure and one of the Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems. It’s home to endangered dugongs and green and loggerhead sea turtles, and it’s a crucial area for humpback whales giving birth and raising their young.

But right now the coal industry is trying to move forward with a deal that would threaten Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and turbocharge climate change. And Bank of America is considering bankrolling this terrible project that would cook the climate.

A huge corporation called Adani is attempting to dredge 3 million cubic meters of seabed to expand the Abbot Point coal port, wrecking part of the biggest stretch of coral reef in the world.

The coal industry wants to build out Abbot Point so it can dig new mega-mines in a vast reserve called the Galilee Basin. That would double coal production in Australia, already the world’s second-biggest coal exporter. Unbelievably, in the midst of a climate emergency, Bank of America is considering bankrolling a carbon time-bomb on the scale of the Alberta tar sands.


Pacific Environment has been instrumental in challenging U.S. federal funding for two massive liquefied natural gas projects threatening to destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

Now we have teamed up with Rainforest Action Network (RAN) to make sure no American bank will fund this destructive project. RAN has been working behind the scenes, asking the biggest Wall Street investment banks to commit to not finance reef and climate destruction. But to get Bank of America to commit to not financing this project, we need you to speak up and tell the bank’s CEO Brian Moynihan not to bankroll the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

The good news is that we have a chance to stop this from happening. Without the backing of major financial institutions, this deal cannot go ahead. In fact, three of the biggest Wall Street investment banksGoldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup—have said they won’t fund the deal.

Join us and the coalition of international environmental organizations now and send a message to Bank of America. Tell them to commit: Don’t fund a deal that would wreck the Great Barrier Reef and harm the climate!


Posted in Biodiversity, Climate Change, Coal, Energy, Finance, Global, Grassroots Activism, Marine, Oceans | Comments Off on Bank of America: Bankrolling the Destruction of the Great Barrier Reef