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CHINA

China asks German firms to halt production before Olympics

The Chinese government has asked six German companies to close factories near Beijing ahead of and during the Olympic Games in Beijing to help cut pollution, business daily Handelsblatt reported.

China asks German firms to halt production before Olympics
Smog in Beijing frames banners for the upcoming Olympics. Photo: DPA

The German firms, which include paint maker Wörwag, construction machinery maker Wirtgen, BYK Chemie, and mining equipment maker DBT, are among more than 80 companies that have been asked to cease production in Langfang, Hebei province from July 15 to the end of September, the paper reported on Wednesday. Citing an official document it obtained, the paper said a total of some 267 companies had been asked to close operations in Hebei province while 40 factories have been shuttered in the port city Tianjin.

“These companies are producing for China’s economy,” Jörg Wuttke, president of the EU’s Chamber of Commerce in Beijing told the paper, adding that lost production will not reach billions of euros.

German news agency dpa said the list of factories asked to wind down production during the Olympics included companies from the US and South Korea.

The Chinese government is scrambling to improve the country’s notorious record on air pollution in time for the Olympic Games and says pollution in Beijing, especially levels of sulphur dioxide emissions which cause acid rain, are declining. The government promises the air will be clear by the time the athletes arrive for the Games, which start on August 8 and run until the end of the Paralympics a month later.

Companies, both foreign and domestic, in China are already struggling with heightened security measures imposed by the Chinese government ahead of the Olympics. Starting July 20, they will also have to deal with logistical problems such as restrictions on the transport of high-risk goods and wide-reaching travel bans in Beijing.

ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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