How Green is China?

On days like today and the last few that we’ve had in Beijing, when the air is so thick that you can almost cut it with a knife, you have to wonder whether China is taking the environment seriously. In fact, air quality was so bad at the China Open on Thursday that the organizers were forced to switch the floodlights on early as thick smog drifted onto the tennis courts.

On the other hand, I know of companies that are having their power supplies cut back this quarter, so that the local governments can meet their energy efficiency goals for the year. While that may seem to be an artificial way to achieve a target, it does show that someone is watching — and keeping score.

My own experience suggests that China does take the environment seriously, and in a number of areas, the country is actually well ahead of those in the more developed parts of the world. The problem, though, is that the scale of the industrialization that is taking place in China is so massive, and the speed with which it is taking place so fast, that it tends to obscure the positive steps that the country is taking and the progress that is being made.

So, “How Green is China”? Steven Schwankert, a good friend whose mother is a fellow Pittsburgh Steeler fan, and a veteran Beijing based writer and editor, addressed this question in in an article of the same name in the most recent edition of The Beijinger. Steven’s article, which is available in pdf form, is a balanced account of where China is on the environmental issue.

Recognizing that China has a long way to go to improve its energy efficiency and that affordability is always a key driver in the country, Steven concludes that the answer is not “black and white.”

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