China’s Green Province

Interesting piece posted at China Dialogue about recent successes in curtailing the rate of environmental degradation in Jiangsu province. (Chinese language version here.)

Former journalist and China dialogue staffer Wang Dongying writes:

Jiangsu’s contribution to China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has consistently ranked among the country’s top three provinces. The province’s economic growth in 2006 was 14.9%, China’s highest. Last year, it was also one of only two provinces that met national targets on pollution reduction and energy efficiency.

In 2006, emissions of major pollutants in Jiangsu province dropped by 3.3%, far surpassing the national target of 2%. Jiangsu’s power consumption per unit of GPD also fell by 4.02%, just over the target of 4%.

Four of the six cities that were first awarded the title of ‘Ecological City’ by China’s State Council are in Jiangsu province. All four- Zhangjiagang, Changshu, Kunshang and Jiangyin – are among China’s ten richest city and county-level economies.

Eighteen cities in Jiangsu have been designated ‘Environmental Protection Cities’, one-fifth of the nationwide total and more than any other single province. Yangzhou was given the UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honour Award in 2006.

The article attributes Jiangsu’s success to a series of innovative environmental pricing measures, including emissions trading and emissions pricing. The success of these reforms in Jiangsu has even led the central government to consider implementing similar measures nationwide. Emissions trading has been used in Europe and the United States to reduce greenhouse gases, and the use of “the market” to succeed where “nagging and theats” did not is a big step for provincial and national officials in China. Emissions trading has its critics and it’s not a silver bullet, but it is certainly a good start.

Not all is completely rosy down by the river, however. According to the article, only 56% of Jiangsu residents are “satisfied” or “mostly satisfied” with the pollution control measures (a figure lower than the national average). Wang also notes that Jiangsu has several advantages that give local officials and industry more leeway in curbing pollution in the province. One of the commenters suggests that it is not uncommon for rich regions like Jiangsu (or countries, for that matter) to export their pollution to poorer areas. (As such, it is also perhaps not unfair to suggest that those of us in the West accustomed to cheap manufactured goods enjoy some of the benefits of relaxed environmental standards here in China.)

That said, the “pollute now, clean up later” model of growth is clearly not working and despite Wang’s position as a former Xinhua journalist, the article contains some very pointed criticisms of China’s current environmental policies.

Jiangsu’s example suggests that it is indeed possible for Chinese industry to follow a path of more responsible and sustainable development, one that allows for economic growth without jeopardizing the health and safety of the people. I know these things take time, but one wonders, given the perilous environmental conditions in some of China’s cities and regions, just how much time is left on the clock?

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

The decrease in pollution should become more like 25% inlcuding the release of CO2.

March 28, 2007 @ 11:02 am | Comment

Wow…that was quick. Let’s be clear: I’m talking about baby steps here, not the “Green Leap Forward”

But with all of the doomsday news coming out of China on environmental issues, I thought this story of even somewhat good news worth noting.

And if you read the article in its entirety (which I encourage everyone to do before commenting), it’s a pretty even balance of optimism and pessimism.

March 28, 2007 @ 11:06 am | Comment

Guangming Daily recently reported that Yangzhou is so green these days that it has banned private citizens and businesses from planting trees without a license.

March 28, 2007 @ 11:21 am | Comment

Jiangsu can send dirty industries to interior provinces, but chances are some of that pollution will come back at them whenever they are downwind or downstream of the source.

Law enforcement has been the best and most consistent remedy for pollution.

Carbon trading is a short term gain covering a long term lie. The space humans can live in on this planet is a giant, closed room. I can move a smoldeirng cigarette farther to the opposite side of the room, but eventually I’ll still breathe in the smoke and by the time I smell it, the overall concentration will be much greater than when it was next to me.

Yes, the west did benefit from factories relocating to China. The Chinese should be sure to “thank an expat” for leaving the restrictive laws of the US and EU to come to China and run a straight pipe from the furnace to the sky. But as you can see, China’s, SE Asia’s and India’s pollution is spreading around the world, right back to the US and EU.

MNCs = bad

March 28, 2007 @ 12:31 pm | Comment

Perhaps Jiangsu has caught on to the value of good PR, especially in terms of environmental politics.

March 28, 2007 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

China will become a leader in clean technology. The world need watch. People will be amazed at how quickly China moves to clean up its environmental hot spots. China will set an example. I am very optimistic this will happen.

March 28, 2007 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

Ames:

That is a stupid comment.

March 29, 2007 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

I disagree NHYRC. China’s ripe for it, and though their foresight is a bit hazy in this country… knee jerk reactions and massive efforts do appear.

March 30, 2007 @ 12:12 am | Comment

Check out Andrew Leonard’s How the World Works column at Salon today…here

March 31, 2007 @ 6:56 am | Comment

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