China's Carbon Emission Pledge Will Encourage Economic Restructuring

By EO Editorial Board
Published: 2009-09-30

Cover Editorial - EO print edition no. 438
Translated by Tang Xiangyang
Original article

China's Carbon Emission Pledge Will Encourage Economic Restructuring 

At the recent UN Climate Summit held at the UN Headquarters in New York, President Hu Jintao pledged that China would aim to substantially reduce its carbon emissions as a factor of GDP by 2020. He also promised that his country's response to the global climate change challenge would be factored into domestic social and economic development planning and that China would do her best to continue to take effective measures in strengthening energy conservation and also in lifting energy efficiency.

At a time when the GDP growth rate looks secure but when the push towards economic restructuring seems to have stalled, we believe that this pledge makes a lot of sense. This promise on carbon emissions will help foster a stable transition to a sustainable "post-stimulus" era economy and also speed up the process of establishing a resource-efficient and environmental-friendly society and an innovative China.

China has already made much progress and has achieved a lot in its work to reduce carbon emissions.

As President Hu Jintao said, China has made great efforts to pursue a people-first, comprehensive, balanced and sustainable path to development.

The country has also emphasized the importance of the efficient use and preservation of natural resources and of protecting the environment in order to maintain sustainable development.

In China's National Climate Change Program, China set clear goals of reducing energy consumption and major emissions per GDP unit during the 2005 to 2010 period. The program also outlines China's aim of raising the percentage of forest coverage and the country's reliance on renewable energy.

It's estimated, that by reducing energy consumption, within 5 years China will be able to reduce it's reliance on coal by 620 million tons, this is equivalent to reducing carbon emission by 1.5 billion tons.

It's no secret that in the implementation of the country's 4 trillion yuan stimulus package, there has been an inclination among some local governments and industries to emphasize the impact of the project on GDP growth and to pay less attention to quality and environmental credentials. Some local governments have ignored the push for economic restructuring, choosing instead to focus on GDP growth.

The 60-year history of the People's Republic of China has repeatedly made it clear that economic development won't last if we simply focus on the speed of development and the amount produced.

Every time China has tried to develop too quickly, the country has had to make great efforts in order to clean up and readjust after things have gone wrong.

In the past, we might have been puzzled by exactly how best to balance both the rate of development and restructuring, but now the goal of reducing carbon emissions has provided us with a clear standard.

Moreover, in this era of building a harmonious society that gives priority to the needs of the people, the old logic of "GDP above all" is no longer accepted.

Economic development achieved at the price of destroying the environment has gradually lost any kind of appeal that it might have had. The facts reveal that a society that is not environmental-friendly can never be harmonious.

Whether China will be able to achieve its goals of cutting carbon emissions, will also have a direct impact on determining whether China can position itself in an advantageous position in any future global economic system.

The possibility that America may impose a carbon tax on imported products as part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, means that the issue of carbon emissions has the potential to become a major point of contention among players in the the global economic system.

China, as an emerging power that is highly reliant on the international market, has to be prepared to face this challenge.

Although China should maintain the principle of insisting that each country has shared but different responsibilities and emphasise the various factors that will alter the contribution that each state can make, such as: stage of development, life style, population, the relative abundance of natural resources and international division of industrial production.

Still, the most effective way of dealing with the challenge is to take matters into our own hands, by pushing ahead with initiatives to develop renewable and nuclear energy, by promoting a low-carbon and sustainable economy, by researching and developing environmental-friendly technology so as to stride over any green barrier that might emerge in international trade.

By doing so, we'll hasten China's emergence as an innovative and confident nation.

Climate change has no national boundaries. As an emerging power, China should live up to its responsibilities and cooperate with the international community to strive for an outcome that benefits both its own national interest and all of humanity.