Environment vs. Growth: Which is the best investment?

7 Mar

Between 2008 and 2010 China invested a huge 4 trillion Yuan, to ‘sustain global growth as the U.S., Europe and Japan teeter on the brink of recession’ (Yanping and Wong, 2008). Almost half of this total investment, equivalent to 20% of China’s GDP, was spent to improve transport, power and infrastructure. In comparison only 9% was spent on “environmental improvement”. Recently China’s capital of Beijing has seen record levels of pollution, questioning the safety and viability of its intense export-led industrial growth strategy.  Today not only is the health of China’s urban population at risk. Abstaining from environmental investment and sustainable energy is also hindering economic growth; Beijing saw ‘closures or production cuts at 147 of the city’s industrial plants’ (Rush and Thornhill, 2014).

A Chinese couple posted images of their wedding day in gas masks as ‘smog in Beijing is now so thick it is blocking sunlight’ (Rush and Thornhill, 2014). Pollution in Beijing has exceeded safety limits. The U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor measures PM 2.5 particulates ‘as an indication of the air quality on the Embassy compound located in the Chaoyang district’ (US Embassy, 2014). High levels of these particulates are a concern because they are small enough to enter the lungs and blood stream, so excessive exposure can cause ‘respiratory and cardiovascular disease’ (EPA, 2014). Carbon dioxide is also reaching new highs, with China emitting twice as much as America the second largest polluter (The Economist, 2014). The pollution in Beijing ‘has grounded planes, closed roads and even ben compared to a nuclear winter’ (Rush and Thornhill, 2014). This suggests that an increased investment in China’s environment would be an investment in growth for the future, decreasing health expenditure and inefficient closures due to pollution.


Amy Warwick



EPA, 2014. PM2.5 NAAQS Implementation. Technology Transfer Network National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Available at: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/pm/pm25_index.html [Accessed 06/03/14].

Rush, J. and Thornhill, T. (2014). How’s he going to kiss the bride? Chinese couple pose in GAS MASKS amid choking smog on their wedding. Mail online. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2569197/Chinese-couple-dont-let-smog-ruin-wedding-day-happily-pose-photos-wearing-GAS-MASKS.html  [Accessed 06/03/14].

The Economist, 2014. A small breath of fresh air. Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21595903-government-gives-its-davids-sling-use-against-polluting-goliaths-small-breath-fresh  [Accessed 06/03/14].

US Embassy, 2014. U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor. Available at: http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/aqirecent3.html  [Accessed 06/03/14].

Yanping, L. and Wong, C (2008). China Announces 4 Trillion Yuan Economic Stimulus (Update 2). Bloomberg.


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