SUSTAINING GROWTH IN CHINA
“When western nations began developing their economic strength during the Industrial Revolution, the sight of factories belching huge plumes of smoke was a comforting sign to many that goods were being produced, creating jobs for the masses and wealth for the owners.
In the 21st century, however, those similar plumes of industrial exhaust are less attractive, as it is now recognized that they bring, along with industrial growth and jobs, environmental consequences.
And at a time when nations are in a race to acquire energy supplies such as coal and oil, the issue of economic sustainability comes to the fore.
Jeffrey Chen, CEO of NeoPac Lighting, a producer of sustainable LED lighting; Karen Tang, executive director of the Better Hong Kong Federation; and Jim Zhang, managing director of the North Asia Region (China and Mongolia) for The Nature Conservancy, discussed China’s sustainability issues for Asean Affairs.
Q: With 1.3 billion people squeezed
into a country smaller than the United
States, is there any hope at all for
sustainability in China?
“The ‘Scientific Development Concept’
incorporates a nation’s sustainable
development, social welfare, increased
democracy and the creation of a harmonious
society, and the concept is the
socioeconomic ideology of the Chinese
government,” according to Jeffrey Chen.
However, he noted that the overpopulation
issue in China strains land, energy, water
and other environmental resources, creating
obstacles to sustainability.
Q: A study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency shows that China has already become the predominant source of carbon dioxide, the main global warming emission. What efforts are being made to reduce this?
A:The combined forces of developing nations switching their manufacturing bases to China and China’s economic growth and domestic growth in manufacturing were described by Jeffrey Chen as factors in the growth of carbon emissions in China. He cited the development of solar energy, vehicles using alternative energy sources, smart grids and LED lighting as significant tools to fight carbon emissions. The Nature Conservancy was able to assist the Chinese government on emissions in the forestry sector and was working with local governments in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia to restore forests, Jim Zhang said.
Q: The desert is sweeping into China’s valleys, choking rivers and consuming precious farm land, and the green walls to stop it do not appear to be working. Is this a coming disaster?
A:Both Jim Zhang and Jeffrey Chen
said that in some areas, the “green wall”
approach was working, and adopting the
right technologies and policies could prevent
Q: The disregard of the environment is one of the major causes of the current severe status of China’s pollution. Is this attitude changing in China?
Jim Zhang: “China is no different than any other country in the world in this respect, but it is encouraging how quickly the situation is changing. Take me for example. I come from the business world with little previous engagement in the environment and now I am dedicated full time to environmental issues by managing The Nature Conservancy North Asia region. Chinese public awareness and engagement are moving very fast.”
Q: China is moving aggressively on clean energy, outpacing both the U.S. and EU in green investment. Still, while the nation has put in place many environmental laws, these regulations appear to need better implementation and monitoring. Do you agree?
Karen Tang: “China is a big country, and
not just environmental laws, but most laws,
need close monitoring. However, with the
success that China has been demonstrating
in the past two decades, once they have the
will/target, they can make it.”
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