, BEIJING, Nov 28 – The world can be assured that China is self-motivated to fight climate change, as the country suffers environmental woes and sees the endeavor as crucial to shifting its economic growth mode.
Countries are calculating China’s commitment in combating climate change as the actions of the world’s second-largest economy and the most populous country have come into the limelight at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.
A green and low-carbon development path is China’s only choice if the country is to realize sustainable growth, as China has a large population but limited resources and a vulnerable environment.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) identified promoting “ecological progress” as one of the country’s top development priorities at the Party’s 18th National Congress held earlier this month.
China is faced with “increasing resource constraints, severe environmental pollution and a deteriorating ecosystem,” according to a CPC Central Committee report to the congress.
The Chinese public have become increasingly aware of environmental problems. A recent survey, conducted by the Center for China Climate Change Communication among more than 4,000 mainland residents, showed that 93 percent of respondents agree that climate change has already taken its toll.
Environmental problems have touched off several mass protests in recent years. The local government in the city of Qidong of east China’s Jiangsu Province earlier this year canceled an industrial waste pipeline project hours after thousands of angry residents protested against the plan to build it.
The angry scenes came on the heels of similar demonstrations against industrial projects out of environmental concerns in the southwestern city of Shifang in Sichuan Province in July.
Meanwhile, China is prone to extreme weather, and climate change is reckoned to be behind the rise of natural disasters. The country’s 674 million rural residents, especially those living in absolute poverty, are susceptible to natural disasters.
Therefore, the country has much at stake if climate change is left unattended.
China has integrated combating climate change into its national strategies for the transformation of its economic growth mode and economic restructuring. The 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015) shows the emphasis on green and low-carbon development.
It is transforming its economic growth pattern toward a more balanced one, from export- and investment-driven growth toward a more domestically centered model based on internal consumption, technological innovation, and environmental sustainability.
During the 2006-2010 period, China’s aggregate energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 19.1 percent from that of 2005, which is equivalent to a reduction of 1.46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The nation has set ambitious and challenging goals on reducing carbon emissions. By 2015, China is aiming to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 16 percent, cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 17 percent and raise the proportion of non-fossil fuels in its overall primary energy mix to 11.4 percent.
However, China’s development rights need to be respected. It is unfair and unreasonable to hold China to absolute cuts in emissions at the present stage, when its per-capita GDP stands at just 5,000 U.S. dollars.
Those developed countries pointing the finger at China for not pledging quantitative emission cuts should consider China’s overall situation.
Its historical and per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases are far below those of developed nations, although rapid economic growth and its population base has made it one of the biggest producers of the gases.
Even without the funds committed by developed countries to the developing world in Copenhagen in 2009, China has been well-prepared for combating climate change.
However, poor nations and small island nations whose existence is threatened by rising sea levels, now stand before a climate fiscal cliff. Developed nations should fulfill their promises of providing financial and technological aid to developing countries in alleviating global warming damage, even amid the international economic downturn.
The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” should be well honored at the ongoing U.N. climate talks, the framework of which was launched two decades ago.