China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Monday, September 11, 2006

Can China Go Green?

By Elizabeth C. Economy | Monday, September 04, 2006

Can China overcome its abysmal environmental record and reverse decades of pollution and degradation of its natural resources? Elizabeth Economy, author of "The River Runs Black", outlines a possible scenario where sustained economic growth, sound policies and civil society all combine to put China on the path of becoming a model environmental citizen.

In the first scenario, China's economy continues to grow, producing more challenges for the environment but simultaneously spurring greater investment in environmental protection at both the local and national levels.

A booming environmental industry

If such a scenario were to play out, China's most vibrant

Premier Wen Jiabao uses his environmental expertise to push for broader environmental change.
cities – such as Shanghai and Dalian – serve as genuine models for other coastal and inland cities interested in attracting greater foreign investment and recognition for their livability.

As urbanization continues, satellite cities replicate the better environmental practices of the major urban centers rather than becoming dumping grounds for the cities' most polluting enterprises.

Shanghai becomes a center for the most advanced environmental thinking and cleaner production, prompting a booming industry in environmental technologies.

Environmentally conscious

Beautification campaigns clean up the city streets and Shanghai develops a high-speed transit system to its satellite cities, thereby sharply slowing the growth rate in car use in the city and surrounding environs.

The continued increasing wealth of the city and environmental education opportunities in schools spawn a highly energized green movement, which promotes recycling, water-saving measures and other grassroots efforts to protect the environment and the city's natural resources.

China's green future

In ten

China becomes world-renowned for the quality and quantity of its organic produce, particularly fruits and vegetables.
years, the water in the Huangpu River is once again safe for recreation and drinking, leading to a lively riverfront community.

At the same time, Premier Wen Jiabao uses his environmental expertise to push for broader environmental change. The political success of former Dalian mayor BC Xilai encourages other mayors to follow suit, using the environment as a stepping stone to positions of greater political prominence.

Throughout the country, tens of thousands of model environmental cities sprout, providing China's citizens with unprecedented access to a better future for themselves and their children.

Good-bye pollution

China’s entry into the WTO reinforces positive trends in the quality of goods produced, the development of a legal infrastructure and stronger enforcement capability.

Electricity supplied from the Three Gorges Dam – and natural gas provided by the West-East pipeline – dramatically improves China’s energy mix. Coal use decreases as the desire for efficiency and higher quality of life becomes paramount.

Fresh fruit — grown in China

Environment-related public health concerns diminish as China is

Tens of thousands of model environmental cities sprout, providing China’s citizens with unprecedented access to a better future for themselves and their children.
forced to rethink its rural development and agricultural strategies to accommodate WTO-levels of food safety.

As China moves away from intensive farming and toward other, more environmentally sustainable and lucrative crops, the country also becomes world-renowned for the quality and quantity of its organic produce, particularly fruits and vegetables.

In the automobile sector, Chinese joint ventures become leaders in producing fuel-efficient cars. Alternative fuel-cell vehicles dominate the roads, encouraged by the desire of Beijing to match consumer interests with the country's diminishing oil supply.

NGOs take the lead

On the governance front, China's NGOs continue to flourish, supported not only by the international community, but also increasingly by Chinese citizens who value a clean environment and are willing to contribute both financially and personally to ensure its sustainability.

China's top entrepreneurs become an important new source of funding for environmental NCOs, helped by new tax laws and a growing base of wealthy Chinese citizens.

The environment – a political platform

Small mass-based environmental NCOs emerge and the well-established NGOs expand

Urban planners, conservationists and business leaders join forces to develop western China in a model environmental fashion.
their membership and their mission as the next generation of environmental NGO leaders increasingly incorporates international practices of lobbying and lawsuits to protect the environment.

The international community — business, government and NGOs — joins forces with domestic NGOs and environmentally proactive government leaders to increase dramatically China’s technological and policy capacity to protect the environment.

A vast experiment

This partnership also transforms the Go West campaign into a vast experiment in sustainable development.

Urban planners, conservationists and business leaders join forces to develop western China in a model environmental fashion. They implement cleaner production, ensure public hearings for new development projects and establish local best practices with solar-powered office buildings, recycling centers and state-of-the-art public transportation.

Joining forces

The media, together with the public, serves as a watchdog to ensure that the

China's top entrepreneurs become an important new source of funding for environmental NCOs.
west does not become a new center for resource exploitation and polluting industry.

Finally, for the international community, this scenario offers the potential for improved implementation of international environmental agreements, declining or stable levels of China's greenhouse gas emissions and improvement in China's contribution to transboundary air problems, such as acid rain.

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