SO YOU want to live in a country that is guided by a philosophy of “ecological civilisation”, run by people with the vision to implement policies that will benefit their children even if it costs more in the short term? Move to China.
Not convinced? Last week, news circulated that China is considering limiting its greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak in 2030, followed by an orchestrated fall.
It was one man’s view, expressed at a Beijing conference, not an official announcement. But He Jiankun is chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, and his words are in line with actions China is now taking to address global warming.
“China is already doing a lot,” says Fergus Green of the London School of Economics. “They are probably making the most progress of any country, given that they are starting from a position that is far more challenging.”
“Things are changing very, very fast,” says Changhua Wu of The Climate Group think tank in Beijing.
To be clear, China is still the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. Cities like Beijing are plagued by smog, and efforts to clean them up may just move the pollution elsewhere. But there is a huge push for change.
Water scarcity and awareness that China will suffer from global warming are factors, but it is health concerns that loom large. The air in many cities is dangerous to breathe, the water is toxic and there are often food health scares. “People are fed up,” says Wu.
Premier Li Keqiang has declared a “war on pollution”. His leadership has drawn up a philosophical framework called ecological civilisation. It aims to “bring everything back to the relationship between man and nature”, says Wu, and is driving major changes.
Prompted by the idea that used resources must be paid for, China has launched carbon trading schemes in six areas. There, companies must pay to pollute, and abide by a cap on overall emissions. A seventh scheme should start within weeks. They will form the world’s second largest carbon trading scheme, after Europe’s. A national programme should begin this decade.
China has set targets to make more wealth using less energy and it is on course to meet them. It contributes one-fifth of global investment in renewables, more than any other nation, has more installed wind power than anywhere else and in 2013 doubled its solar capacity.
The smog is turning people off dirty power. Construction of coal-fired power stations peaked in 2007 (see graph), and smaller power stations are being switched off. According to the London-based think tank Carbon Tracker, 10 out of 30 provinces have cut their coal use, and wind capacity is growing twice as fast as coal. “The coal-fired power plants that China is building are some of the most high-tech and efficient available,” says Carbon Tracker’s Luke Sussams. There are also schemes in place to make people who pollute water pay those who suffer as a result.
Environmentalists have pushed policies like these for years. But while Western nations debate them, China is testing them and rolling out those that work.
via China battles to be first ecological civilisation – environment – 13 June 2014 – New Scientist.