At the G20 Summit in Hamburg 19 of the 20 members, excluding the United States, agreed that the Paris climate accord was irreversible and reaffirmed their commitment. With Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement it seems that China wants to be the new leader on renewable energies and environment protection. This new role can be difficult to believe when we know the high level of air pollution in Beijing and the pollution of water in Hong Kong. Moreover China and the use are responsible for 40% of the world’s CO2 emission. In fact there are two different things to consider: the investment in renewable energies and the consciousness of environmental protection. And we will see that both are present in China nowadays.

 

The first thing to do is to stop viewing China as a retarded country about ecology because ours are not good examples either. Like conservation Dr Jane Goodall says “Is China still causing environmental destruction in Africa and Latin America? Yes. Did not European colonialism do exactly the same and aren’t many big corporations today doing exactly the same?“. And with the climatoscepticism of Donald Trump it is even worse.

China plans to invest $360 billion by 2020

Xi Jinping wants his country to invest in renewable energies because he understood that it is a new expanding market in which China can draw benefits. The time when China was the world’s factory is ending. The purchasing power of the population is rising and the coal is becoming more and more uneconomical. “Market forces favoring solar and wind power threaten to leave the United States behind, with the continued decline of coal, whereas China wants to benefit from new energy markets and plans to invest $360 billion by 2020. This would take the proportion of renewables in domestic energy to 50 percent by then.” According to Mark Robinson from Eco-Business.com.

But the government is not only thinking about the benefits of renewable sources of energy other measures are being implemented. For example Zheijang province they are restricting the number of cars in order to reduce air pollution and reduce massive queues. Protection of animal species is also taken into account like recovering the giant panda species to the point it’s no longer considered endangered and President Xi Jinping has declared its ivory trade will be shut down by the end of 2017.

Each year between 1 and 1.6 million Chinese people die early as a result of air pollution

Like I said before all these measures are going into the right direction but we must not forget that problems of air, soil and water pollution combined with excessive use of pesticides and are causing serious health issues in China. “Each year between 1 and 1.6 million Chinese people die early as a result of air pollution which is caused primarily by industrial and car emissions.” according to the University of Oslo. The study says that 40% of air pollution may be caused by household when people are cooking or heating. “In the villages we study people have been protesting against air pollution from factories in their vicinity, but they have little knowledge about the air pollution that is caused by their cooking.” says Mette Halskov Hansen. But the consciousness about environmental problems might change.

 

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During winter 2013 the smog in Beijing was particularly thick which led to attract the attention of the public on the issue of air pollution. You can now even find apps allowing people to check air quality in real time.

People are more and more well informed about pollution. Thanks to the action of public protest, negative media coverage and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing the government now permits the public release of data about air, water and soil pollution. “Since the introduction of the new Environmental Protection Law in 2015, China’s courts have accepted 189 public interest environmental cases, mostly brought by environmental non-governmental organizations. The Ministry of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for implementation of the new law, has intensified local inspections of heavily-polluting industries and is now actively collecting public complaints on environmental issues.” for Mark Robinson.

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Another unexpected source of environmental consciousness is religion. Because the Democratic Republic Of China was build on communism religions were banned. But recently president Xi Jinping encouraged the study of Chinese traditions, including religion. The goal is to compete against the influence of Western culture. The government thus tolerates the rise of religious environmentalism. In an article for The New-York Times Javier C. Hernàndez states that “Hundreds of millions of people in China have in recent years turned to religions like Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, seeking a sense of purpose and an escape from China’s consumerist culture.” He interviewed an abbot from Mao Mountain, Mr. Yang, who is using Taoism to speak about ecology. Nothing new under the sun, Taoism and Buddhism are known to take into account the relationship between humans and nature. As one Taoist teaching says : “Humans follow the earth, the earth follows heaven, heaven follows Taoism, Taoism follows nature.” This type of thinking is different from the Western notion of saving the Earth. Religion is deeper than that, the goal is to live in harmony with nature and all living things.

 

– Théo Quint

 

Sources:

–       Phys.org. (2017). Is there a green awakening in China?. [online] Available at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-green-awakening-china.html [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].

–       Newshub. (2017). China now world leader in environmental protection – Jane Goodall. [online] Available at: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2017/06/china-now-world-leader-in-environmental-protection-jane-goodall.html [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].

–       Hernández, J. (2017). China’s Religious Revival Fuels Environmental Activism. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/world/asia/mao-mountain-china-religion-environment.html [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].

–       Eco-Business. (2017). Will China and India lead on global climate action and environmental protection?. [online] Available at: http://www.eco-business.com/opinion/will-china-and-india-lead-on-global-climate-action-and-environmental-protection/ [Accessed 16 Jul. 2017].

 

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