[enviro-vlc] Reuters AlertNet - Climate change biggest restriction on China's development -economist
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Sun Jul 11 08:11:43 EST 2010
Climate change biggest restriction on China's development -economist
09 Jul 2010 16:23:00 GMT
Written by: Laurie Goering
Smoke billows from a power plant on the outskirts of Hefei, Anhui province. REUTERS/Stringer
LONDON (AlertNet) - With its own security in mind, China is pushing to curb greenhouse gases, setting up broad environmental as well as economic targets in its latest five-year state plan, a leading Chinese "green development" advocate said this week.
Fully 39 percent of the performance indicators for government officials in the new 2011-2015 plan should focus on "green" issues, up from 3 percent in the previous plan, said Hu Angang, an economics professor from Tsinghua University in Beijing, speaking at Chatham House in London.
That's in part because Chinese officials, facing rising public unhappiness over some of the world's worst pollution and an estimated $25 trillion cost to clean up environmental damage associated with the country's rapid industrialisation, now see climate change, economic and security issues as inextricably linked, he said.
"Climate change is the biggest actor restricting China's development," Hu said.
VULNERABILITY TO WEATHER HAZARDS
China also sees itself as increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather associated with climate change, such as the recent prolonged drought that gripped southwest China, killing crops and leaving millions without drinking water, and the heavy snowstorms that shut down factories and paralysed travel in parts of northern China last winter.
Between 1990 and 2007, 52 percent of the people worldwide affected by meteorological disasters were in China, according to data from the U.S.-based Center for Research on Environmental Decisions and from Oxfam, an anti-poverty charity, Hu said.
But shifting China's rapid development path onto a greener track will be a challenge. Deng Xiaoping's 1987 "three step strategy" for China calls for the nation to reach a level of development equivalent to the Western world by 2050. But giving a population of over a billion automobiles, air conditioners and other accoutrements of energy-hungry Western life could, by 2030, turn China into a greenhouse gas producer that dwarfs the United States, producing 70 percent more emissions, Hu said.
From 2000 to 2020, China's economy is expected to more then quintuple in size, but the associated rise in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will be three times higher than economic growth, he said.
That means that, so far, China is experiencing "serious failure" to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, he said.
Changing that will require not only pushing traditional green measures - planting of forests, reducing the amount of carbon emitted per measure of economic growth, increasing use of renewable fuels - but revamping the economy entirely to a new low-carbon model and heavily promoting a low-energy lifestyle, Hu said.
For now, China remains reluctant to agree to binding restrictions on its climate-changing carbon emissions, not least because the United States - the world's other biggest carbon polluter - has yet to accept them.
The country is poised at what Hu called "a crossroads" in terms of what international stance to take at climate negotiations, weighing both active cooperation with efforts to build a new global climate treaty, and "passive opposition" aimed at protecting the country's development path, he said.
One problem in reaching a new treaty, he said, is the grouping of negotiating nations into richer, developed and poorer, undeveloped groupings, with the rich expected to agree to mandatory emissions reductions and the poorer not obligated to do so.
A better model, he said, would be to break countries into groups based on their human development index rating, with those with the best standard of living required to accept emission cuts, those in the middle given conditional targets to meet, and the least-developed countries only "encouraged" to make cuts.
China, he said, would now fit into the two upper groupings, making at least some emissions reductions obligatory - a dramatic change from the early 1980s when it would have clearly fallen into the lower ranking.
"This is our roadmap on how to reduce (emissions worldwide)", said Hu, who has pushed his country to accept binding international emission reduction targets.
Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Laurie Goering is AlertNet's climate change editor. Prior to joining AlertNet in 2009, she was a Chicago Tribune correspondent based for 15 years in New Delhi, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Havana, Rio de Janeiro and London, covering a wide range of issues but with a special focus on climate change.
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