What If Greenpeace Ran China?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/04/2011 09:48:00 PM
Though I am very often at loggerheads with positions that Greenpeace takes, a significant part of the following makes sense to me at least. As we all know, China's rise to becoming the world's second largest economy has been accompanied by becoming the world's most polluting economy in terms of carbon emissions and likely much else. My general belief is that while the PRC leadership expresses concern over these facts, it is reluctant to offend export lobbies in resource-intensive manufacturing industries. Moreover, it is not so easy of breaking away decisively with what, for the most part, can now be considered a "tried and true" growth strategy.

As a remnant of Soviet-style central planning, the Politburo still prepares five-year plans, basically blueprints for running the country. While the likes of William Easterly and those of a libertarian bent pooh-pooh these plans, it is remarkable how the major emerging economies China and India still engage in them. Though environmental overtures were already evident in the 11th and indeed the 10th five year plan, Greenpeace suggests the difference with the forthcoming document may be that it will have more teeth. So it can wish; let's see. In the meantime, if Greenpeace ran China, it would probably implement its following suggestions:
“In the last 30 years, China’s rapid economic development has astounded the world, but it has also exacted a heavy price on the environment and natural resources. Severe industrial and agricultural pollution is already taking a toll on public welfare and economic development. Meanwhile, climate change not only exposes China to increasing international pressure, but also has dire threats to the country’s water resources and food security,” says Greenpeace Campaign Director Sze Pang Cheung. “China urgently needs to transform its development model, which currently prioritizes economic growth, and instead embark on a healthy, sustainable path of green development.”

Thus, building on its over ten years of experience in China, Greenpeace has prepared some comments and suggestions on the forthcoming 12th Five-Year Plan:

1. We suggest that the government improves its energy efficiency target and ensure that they are met. Regarding the highly possible 16% target reduction in energy intensity (energy used to produce each unit of GDP), Greenpeace believes that this is not ambitious enough and will not sufficiently pressure local governments to put forth the fullest effort to meet the increasingly difficult challenges of improving energy efficiency. Learning from its past experiences, the Chinese government should establish higher energy savings targets, and implement more ambitious action plans and supporting polices to ensure their fulfillment.

2. We recommend that the government clearly define the strategy to adjust China’s energy mix, to halt the rapid growth of coal-fired power plants and gradually decrease the country’s over-reliance on coal. We hope that the environment tax can be implemented in the early phase of the 12th Five-Year Plan, and that it will include carbon dioxide so that the price of coal fully reflects its true environmental cost. At the same time, we recommend that government set bold targets for the development of renewable energy and actively solve bottlenecks – such as grid access – that are constraining the further expansion of renewable energy.

3. We understand that the 12th Five-Year Plan will include “invisible pollutants” such as heavy metals for the first time, as well as a comprehensive approach to pollutant management and control, including the key concept of prevention at the source. This marks historical progress in both the types of pollutants covered and the approach to pollution management. We recommend tracing back the control of heavy metals to industrial demand for these elements in their production chains. We also suggest setting limitations on the use of heavy metals in certain products and processes. At the same time, we call for greater information disclosure and public participation to make it fully possible to achieve pollutant control targets.

4. We recommend that the government establishes more detailed and more comprehensive policies and laws to regulate agricultural non-point source pollution. We call for the decreased use of pesticides and fertilizers to reduce and control agricultural pollution, an end to the commercialization process of genetically engineered crops (especially rice and corn), and the implementation of long-term plans to promote the development of ecological agriculture. Through these various policies, China will be gradually freed from its over-reliance on chemical agriculture.

Sze Pang Cheung says, “We believe that the Chinese government will continuously increase the strength, scope, and depth of its policies on energy savings and emissions reduction, environmental management, and adjustments of the economy and energy mix. At the same time, it will become the trend to implement more policies, expand environmental technologies, and support the growth of renewable energy and clean production. In such a historic transformation, we expect that local governments and industries will be farsighted enough to place energy intensity and pollution reduction targets over GDP growth. If they can seize this opportunity, then China can occupy a prime position in the race to green development.”
The full PDF is also available online. Considering that NGO activity in China is highly regulated, it is remarkable that Greenpeace is quite sanguine on the prospects for greening China. Then again, you would naturally think that it would be more sympathetic to a socialist regime than its typical bogeyman--the capitalist multinational firm.