Japan from the inside out

China fouling Asian nest

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, May 17, 2007

PREFECTURAL GOVERNMENTS in Kyushu were recently forced to issue alerts to their citizens due to the high levels of photochemical smog in the region. There are seven prefectures on the island, and Wednesday last week four of them–Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, and Oita–told their residents they should avoid going outside whenever possible. They also cautioned schools to refrain from allowing their students to participate in outdoor sports.

The National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba has been working to determine the source of this dangerous smog, and according to a report in today’s Nishinippon Shimbun, they’ve concluded that it floated across the East China Sea from China.

While the media often reports on China’s stunning economic growth, they less frequently mention that one of the costs of this growth is extreme air pollution. The air in Beijing, for example, is among the world’s filthiest. It would be bad enough if the Chinese choked on the byproducts of their newfound wealth, but now they’re fouling the rest of the Northeast Asian nest. Indeed, it might even be a case of biting the hand that feeds them: 30% of Japanese ODA to China is for environmental projects. One example is Japan’s 19.3 billion yen ($US 160.2 million) loan to China for the Henan Atmospheric Environmental Improvement Project.

Another often-overlooked aspect of China’s industrial growth is that it is powered by coal. The country has an estimated 30,000 coal mines, and they have embarked on an ambitious project of building hundreds of coal-fired power plants between now and 2012. In fact, the output of the new coal-fired power plants that China will put on line every year between now and 2012 exceeds the total annual power production of England.

Could someone explain to us again why China was exempted from the Kyoto Protocol?

6 Responses to “China fouling Asian nest”

  1. David said

    “Could someone explain to us again why China was exempted from the Kyoto Protocol?”

    That exemption also baffles me. I realize that we (the rich & developed countries) cannot tell states like China that they are not allowed to attain the same level of wealth and development as us, because it is unfair and just not right. But we can’t just let things go on this way either.

    Today, alternatives are available to China, which means it doesn’t need to use the same methods we used to reach our current level of development.

    Let’s face it, Western countries (including Japan) have done a heck-of-a-lot of damage to the environment, on their way up. However, knowing what we know today, and taking into consideration the new technologies that exist, we should not simply ignore China’s destructive behaviour towards the environment.

    If it was willing to stop walking the environmentally-destructive path it is currently walking, and if it approached things the right way, China could even become a leader in “clean technology” development and use.


  2. Jon said

    China’s excuse is that they should be allowed to catch up to the other industrialized countries and until then they should not have to follow Kyoto protocols or worry about the environment.

    They state the other industrial powers built up their economies over the last 300 years without caring about the environment and so the Chinese should be able to do that as well.

    Well, all I have to say to the Chines is “Life’s not fair”. Sorry you came to the game late but the realities of the world today are different. The environemt needs to be protected now and no excuses should be made.

    China needs to stop making excuses.

  3. Paul said

    Jon, the environment is no more important now than it was then. If anything, it’s probably cleaner now than it was when America was at this stage in its economy. The Chinese deserve their newfound wealth. It’s the only thing they have going for them right now.

  4. Jon said

    Paul, it is not the point whether the environment is really cleaner now or not and I agree that China ABSOLUTELY deserves its new found wealth and has a right to join the other industrialized economies. My point is that China’s argument for being allowed to have a different set of standards for environmental protection than the other countries is a poor argument.

  5. MartinF said

    The reason is that no UN environmental protocol can ever be imposed on a soverign country. Countries choose to join. So it is not a matter of being able to exempt China or not. Of course, what other countries could have done once China said it would not join would have been to impose sanctions. What Japan is doing is to provide ODA and share technology to try to help them develop, just like you point out.

    China needs to stop making excuses and most of all it needs a free press that can report about the damage at home. Maybe if they could also report about the damage to their international reputation, things would speed up. But do the Chinese care what others think about them?

  6. bender said

    Environmental issues cannot be simply shrugged off under the defense of “sovereignty” because of its wide-reaching externalities. We have only one planet to live on, so everyone should get serious, no matter what happened in the past. It’s about the present and more important, the future.

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