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Tamara Stark: Don't blame China!

Tianjin Construction Site.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: MK Media Productions

Tamara Stark, Communications Director at Greenpeace in the UK, writes this spot on blog post about the environmental "China bashing" in the international media.

"Having spent the last three years living in China, I and all of my Chinese colleagues became somewhat accustomed to what we referred to as "China bashing" by some of the international media. You know the sort of thing: the over-the-top, almost hysterical cry of "China's eating up all the world's resources!" Since China is now one of the world's largest manufacturing centres, the claim was applied to almost anything - timber, coal, or even the cobalt used to make our cell phone batteries. To a certain degree, therefore, there is a kernel - but not much more - of truth to the claim."

Stark highlights the fact that most of the production that generates the waste and pollution in China comes from factories (many owned by Western corporations) producing products intended for and consumed by the Western markets. We in the West have outsourced our dirty factories to (often) un-democratic countries with shameless low wages and with a political and justice system that lacks even mediocre environmental regulations. So why is the mainstream media blaming these developing countries for the increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions when it is actually our consumption that is the root of the problem?

Stark continues by adding that China is currently investing more in renewable energy than some Western countries:

"For example, take their investment in renewable energy. Every year, there is more wind power capacity installed in China than the UK has installed in its entire history. The UK is currently near the bottom of the EU in terms of investment, only just managing to top Malta and Luxembourg. Surely a G8 country should be doing better than this?"

It unfortunately seems that the UK will lose its only wind turbine factory (and over 600 people will lose their jobs) due to a lack of much-needed investment in the green energy sector in favour of dirty fossil fuels such as coal and nuclear energy instead. While that happens in Europe the leaders of China are investing $12.6 million every hour to green their economy. China is actually investing twice as much as USA to green the economy, create jobs for the future and stop man-made climate-change. And this despite the fact that the US economy is 1.5 times as large as China’s.

When a single power plant in West Yorkshire in Great Britain will produce more CO2 every year than all the 139 million people combined living in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. And when the West’s environmental footprint is several times higher than those in China who are we to be the ones pointing fingers?

We should never forget that it is we in the developed world that has created this global environmental problem. We are the ones responsible. Trying to claim otherwise is just disgusting.

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Simon. As a current resident of China, and green blogger myself, it is good to see a few people pointing out that there is a bit of a disconnect between what is going on here and China... and what is being reported. To some extent, I would say that both sides are playing the numbers so as to make their case. The West looks at the gross number (total CO2), but fails to recognize that (1) a significant portino of this CO2 was outsourced to them and (2) that the per capita rate is significantly lower (20% of the West). However, that 20% (or 1/7) is also a bit misleading as well given roughly 800+ million people are really at the root of that figure, and the other 500 or so million are a multiple that could be at par with the West. In so far as Beijing having a higher level of commitment, or at least willingness to act, I would say that for making big investments it is clear that China has made a lot of strong moves lately and that these moves will bring real benefit to China. However, it is important to keep in mind that Beijing has yet to crack down in any meaningful way at any level on polluters, or enable 3rd parties (like Greenpeace) to do so. In the end, I believe that China can teach the world a lot about making the big "top down" decisions, and learn from those who have an active civil society to learn how to foster the "bottom up" approach that has been very effective in educating citizens in the West r www.cleanergreenerchina.com www.china-crossroads.com

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