By Erik Crouch
The environment was mentioned surprisingly often in the Eighteenth Party Congress, where members went as far as to add “promoting ecological progress” into the text of China’s constitution. Pollution and ecological destruction in China have become increasingly harder to ignore; on November 18, the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau modified their pollution ratings system to include three new types of air-pollution that were being missed by their previous index.
Few leaders at the local or national level are willing to sacrifice economic growth in pursuit of “green” goals however, and previous attempts to control industrial pollution have been largely unsuccessful. Hu Jintao attempted a “green GDP” project to encourage environmentally-friendly development, but this was resisted by local authorities and ultimately scrapped. China’s new “Low-Carbon Zones” are struggling to say the least; the zones have “no models to follow, and no single set of plans or standards” meaning that “government and businesses have been unable to coordinate.”
As the government falters in developing new pollution-reduction policies, China’s dirty-energy sector continues to expand. The construction of 363 new coal plants is planned to begin in the next year. China is the world’s top consumer of coal, logs, and iron ore, as well as the top producer of carbon dioxide and mercury.
How China deals with “promoting ecological progress” over the next decade may very well define the success or failure of its new leaders.
Image via Pavoreal