Latest Concerns Over Pollution in China

18 Feb

Environmental degredation and sustainable energy consumption continues to be a major issue for the Chinese government, and it has recently dominated the Chinese media with reports of ‘toxic smog and polluted underground water’ within 74 cities due to ‘bad weather and fireworks celebrations’1. For anyone who has visited China, the grey and cloudy skies and noticeable difference in air quality in places such as Shanghai is an constant reminder of the huge level of energy consumption operating behind the scenes to fuel and sustain the growing number of businesses and citizens within these thriving cities.

The rise of China, along with other BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) have raised concerns over the unpredictable consequences for the global environmental. Many of the resources required for industrial expansion and economic growth, such as oil, natural gas and coal (Providing 3/4 of the electricity in China), all have a finite limit, as well as having adverse effects towards climate change through its use.

The issue of natural resources also extend beyond environmental and human concerns, it represents an area of potential political conflict between states because these resources have become so crucial to industrialized states that no-one can afford not to compete for what is left or risk severe damage and restrictions to their economy. Resolving this increasingly pressing global issue will have profound implications on China’s relations with other states, in particular the U.S, who is currently the biggest energy consumer in the world but remains China’s biggest trading partner and sources of investment and technology.

The Chinese elite are fully aware that ‘the cost of energy resources and detrimental effects on the environment and society caused by an export-driven economy are too large to be sustainable’2, and efforts have been made towards the development of a low carbon economy. But whilst demand for resources remain high, it will be very unlikely for China’s already hudge energy market to stop expanding, but this also creates great market potential for all the new and advanced energy technologies. International collaboration will be the key to success, and China, considering its heavy dependence on resources and the task of meeting the needs of millions of rural citizens that continue to migrate to cities, must take a leading role in the development of a more sustainable global economy, both in the interest of its people and the world.



6 Responses to “Latest Concerns Over Pollution in China”

  1. J Howard February 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    As mentioned the Chinese elite are fully aware of the consequences of pollution, and are even drawing attention towards the issue. With one entrepreneur offering a “200,000 Yuan reward to a senior official if he swims in a polluted river for 20 minutes, as part of an attempt to draw attention to the environmental plight in China’s eastern province.”
    Jin Zengmin claims the river where villagers used to wash vegetables and clothes in his childhood is polluted and covered in rubbish because of a local overshoe factory which has been dumping industrial waste into the river. Although environmental officials claim the issue is because of overpopulation in the area, and there are plans to put a complete water recycling system in place within three years.
    And with plans by the governments to offer big rewards for whistle blowers who expose companies which are illegally pumping emissions underground. It seems that the government and elites are making moves in the right direction in order to control pollution which is obviously counter-productive for development and growth in the long run.

  2. iw4g11iw4g11 February 19, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    China’s energy capabilities are expanding in response to growing demand . It has great ambitions with a proposed takeover from china’s state run energy firm CNOOG of the US oil firm Uncoal. The undeniable negligence of the energy producers in china has for many years come under international scrutiny as they often overrule any objections made by the environmental ministry of China . The scrutiny has now spread to a domestic level with smog levels in the main cities becoming unbearable . How the government deals with this will be interesting as it is now an internal dispute. Though not a strong argument China and its ruling powers will feel it has a “right” to unregulated energy production that a lot of countries such as the US built their country on , benefiting from cheaper production costs. China could probably get away in the short term by satisfying its citizens by cutting urban pollution down but how it will deal with increasing international pressure will be the key turning point in the story.

  3. cjf3g11 February 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    With a population of 1.3 billion, China contributes to the greenhouse carbon emissions by 19.1%. Every year, air pollution costs the city over HKD$2 billion in health costs and lost productivity so it is not only in the climates interest that China cuts back on their carbon emission, but also their peoples, and in the long run their economic interest. Although they are not included in the United Nations annual climate change conferences, China is more ambitious back home than it appears on the international scene; they have pledged to cut back emission by 40-45% relative from 2005 to 2020. The most prominent plan is to run a national emission trading scheme (ETS). The short-term goal is to establish trans-provincial and trans-regional trading schemes in transition to a national scheme by 2015. China hopes to extend its pilot carbon emission trading system, or ETS, to across the nation in its new five-year plan starting 2016. If the Chinese ETS works, one may expect other Asian national economies to follow suit. With the current efforts by Australia and New Zealand, there are some prospects for an Asia-Pacific network for emission trading which arguably indicates that China is making many efforts to cut down carbon emissions.

  4. ab25g11 May 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    China alongside several other countries has recently joined the Arctic Council; therefore gaining permanent observer status. This is a significant step towards accessing valuable oil and gas deposits. The changing climate has allowed ships to travel more cheaply and quickly across the Northern Artic route. Countries such as China with large ship building industries and a high demand for fuel resources make the route highly lucrative. With up to 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of undiscovered gas deposits are estimated to exist within the Arctic Circle, this resource is likely to become highly contentious. The council previously consisted of 8 member states – Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland Russia Denmark Canada and the US. By gaining access to the council China will have more leverage and influence with future decisions surrounding the exploitation of resources in this heavily protected region.

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