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But production almost stopped in mid-December, as local authorities switched off the lights.

Ma Hairu, who works for a manufacturer making paper decorations for Christmas and New Year, said his factory was struggling to meet demand because they’re only allowed to work half days. “We have a lot of orders, but we don’t have enough time to make them,” he said.

Officials in China’s Zhejiang province are racing to meet five-year energy consumption targets set by the central government that are due to expire on December 31. Earlier this month, a local directive instructed businesses to stop elevators below the third floor, and to only use heating when temperatures outside fell below 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit).

“There is no shortage of electricity supply [in Zhejiang]. Some places in the province adopted measures themselves to restrict electricity use to save energy and reduce emissions,” Zhao Chenxin, secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said Monday.

The drive to cut energy consumption has disrupted millions of lives. In Yiwu, a city of a million people, heating was turned off in offices, shopping malls, schools and hospitals, despite daytime temperatures of about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Even street lights went out, leaving drivers and pedestrians fumbling in the dark, according to local residents and government notices. Heating has also been restricted in the nearby city of Wenzhou, home to more than 9 million people, according to the local government.

Zhejiang’s abrupt cut in electricity consumption highlights both the strength and pitfalls of China’s political system. While the Communist Party can make ambitious promises to cut carbon emissions, the forceful implementation of targets can come at a cost to the people they are ultimately meant to benefit.

“A difficult year”

The power restriction in Yiwu first gained attention last week, when photos and videos of pitch dark streets began circulating on Chinese social media.
On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, Yiwu residents complained about street lamps being turned off and having to drive home in the dark amid traffic chaos. The topic quickly gained traction, drawing 120 million views as of Wednesday, and thousands of comments.
Yiwu residents drive in the dark as street lights are turned off to save energy.

Some accused the Yiwu government of sacrificing public safety to tick a box on a political report card.

Following the online backlash, officials turned some lights back on. “The lights were only off for a few days. Most of them have been turned on now,” a government hotline operator told CNN on Wednesday.

But other restrictions remain in place. Yin Mingfei, a manager of a cafe in a shopping center in the city’s central business district, said the heating had been switched off for nearly two weeks, and electronic advertising billboards and escalators weren’t working.

A receptionist at the Yiwu Central Hospital said heating in the common areas had been turned off, and that she had to put on extra layers of clothing to stay warm. On Weibo, office workers complained about shivering at their desks.

The city’s factories and workshops, whose businesses have already suffered from the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, were ordered to reduce or halt production at a time when orders are flooding in.

Yiwu has earned a reputation as Santa's "real" workshop for producing much of the world's Christmas decorations.

December would have been the busiest time of the year for Liu Lei, who runs a small workshop with his wife in a Yiwu suburb making red envelopes for the Lunar New Year. But he has been ordered to work two days on, two days off until the end of the year to save power.

“Of course the impact [on my business] is huge. The orders are rushing in for red envelopes, but there’s no way I can make enough,” Liu said. “So I had to turn some down.”

Target-oriented political culture

Similar scrambles have happened in the past — on a much larger scale and for many more months. In 2010, the final year of China’s 11th five-year plan, Zhejiang and more than half a dozen other provinces rolled out measures to restrict electricity use.

Some started as early as July that year, limiting or halting production at energy-intensive factories and banning air conditioning in offices and schools, according to media reports at the time.
Since coming to power, Chinese President Xi Jinping has waged a “war on pollution,” doubling down on efforts to steer the country away from its reliance on coal, which as of 2019 still accounted for nearly 60% of China’s energy consumption. More recently, the president made the ambitious pledge for China to become carbon neutral by 2060.
Beijing, China's capital, is often shrouded in heavy smog in the winter.
But such well-meaning efforts have sometimes inflicted suffering due to bad planning and aggressive rollouts. In 2017, a massive retrofitting campaign to switch northern China’s winter heating from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas left some residents and villagers shivering in freezing temperatures, as local officials banned coal before gas furnaces were properly installed or gas supply was stabilized.

“This is common in China. It’s a result of the target-oriented political culture,” said Trey McArver, partner at Beijing-based consultancy Trivium.

Without democratic elections, most Chinese officials climb the political career ladder in a performance-based evaluation system, where targets on economic growth, social stability and, increasingly, environmental protection, play an important role in their chances of promotion.

Under Xi’s authoritarian rule, local officials are placed under even more pressure — filtered down from the central government — to meet Beijing’s policy targets, such as those set out in the country’s five-year plans.

Smoke billows from a large steel plant in Inner Mongolia, China.
In September, officials in Inner Mongolia were summoned by the NDRC to discuss the “serious problems” facing its energy saving situation, after its energy consumption and intensity exceeded the limits set in the 13th five-year plan.

Five-year plans are a legacy of China’s command economy during the Mao era. These top-level policy blueprints lay out the country’s social and economic development goals for the coming period. The 13th five-year plan covers 2016 to 2020.

Competing targets

Zhejiang is required to cut energy intensity — the amount of energy required to produce per unit of economic output — by 17% compared to 2015 levels, according to a blueprint of the 13th five-year plan on energy saving released by China’s State Council.

The province is only allowed to consume an equivalent of 23.8 million tonnes of coal above 2015 levels by 2020, however there are indications it was using too much.

According to a notice released by the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission in 2019, Zhejiang consumed 87% of its extra energy quota during the first three years of the plan.
In October, the central government dispatched a team of investigators to Zhejiang to evaluate its usage. The team instructed Zhejiang to “do its best” to meet its targets, according to the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

The problem with targets is there are often more than one for officials to meet and they are not always complementary, said McArver, the consultant. “The reason that there’s a scramble to meet these targets here at the end is because local officials have been focused primarily on other targets as of now,” he said, such as GDP growth, employment and government revenues.

China's steel production has surged after the coronavirus lockdown.

Shutdowns due to the coronavirus initially helped emissions targets, analysts said, but the rush to revive the economy have set it back. China’s rapid economic recovery from the pandemic has relied heavily on energy-intensive heavy industries, said Li Shuo, a senior climate policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia.

A surge in steel production contributed to a rebound in China’s carbon emissions following a drop during the coronavirus lockdown, Lauri Myllyvirta, analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, wrote in an analysis.

For the manufacturers in Yiwu, there was also a rebound in production following a surge in orders after the summer. But that proved short lived.

Ma, who makes and sells festive decorations, said it had been a particularly tough year for business, first because of the pandemic and now the electricity restrictions.

“We used to make revenue of more than one million yuan ($150,000), but with all the disruptions this year, we really don’t know how much we can make,” he said.

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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