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.


Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.