China Green Economy

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For years now, China has been at the receiving end of stinging criticism from the West over its environmental policies, with critics describing it variously as one of the most polluted countries, an insatiable, consumer-driven energy guzzler, and the world’s worst emitter of greenhouse gases.

These labels have been prompted by China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization over the past 30 years, which has allowed it to achieve blistering economic growth, but at enormous cost to its environment. Given the widespread criticism, it’s understandable why many in the West might find it hard to imagine this ‘dirty’ giant ever getting clean.

Yet these difficulties shouldn’t overshadow an encouraging reality—China’s top decision makers are planning to take a more holistic approach to the quest for greener growth that could transform the country’s image.

China’s central government is currently thrashing out details of how best to steer towards greener growth as part of closed-door discussions aimed at finalizing the country’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015), which will be announced in March. The plan is expected to become China’s first national plan to shift the development agenda decisively toward a pattern of green growth, accelerating the country’s efforts at green modernization. Expect ‘establishing a low carbon society’ to be a key political slogan over the next five years.

With a limit to the amount of fossil fuel it can access, and with these fuels anyway creating significant environmental damage and associated socioeconomic problems, China’s top leadership seems to be realizing that the old ‘growth at all costs’ model that has previously been followed threatens not only the country’s energy security, but its very survival. A green development pathway based on low energy consumption and low carbon emissions is essential if China is to find a sustainable path to growth.

The environmental aspects of the plan are likely to be boiled down to five key...
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