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1.China’s growth induced threats (Down to Earth)

2.How to develop without increasing emissions (The guardian)

1.China’s growth induced threats (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how Chinese investment is driving an unprecedented investment boom in global infrastructure, but it is harming the planet. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Many observers of China’s escalating global program of foreign investment and infrastructure development are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. In an ideal world, China’s unbridled ambitions will improve economic growth, food security and social development in many poor nations, as well as enriching itself.
  • But a close look reveals that China’s international agenda is far more exploitative than many realise, especially for the global environment. And the Chinese leadership’s claims to be embracing “green development” are in many cases more propaganda than fact.

China’s present environmental impacts.

  • On biodiversity: China is overwhelmingly the world’s biggest consumer of illegally poached wildlife and wildlife products. From rhino horn, to pangolins, to shark fins, to a menagerie of wild bird species, Chinese consumption drives much of the global trade in wildlife exploitation and smuggling. Over the past 15 years, China’s rapacious appetite for ivory has largely driven a global collapse of elephant populations. In response to growing international criticism, China promised to shut down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017.
  • But even before China’s ban has taken full force, a black market for ivory is developing in neighbouring Laos. There, Chinese entrepreneurs are churning out great quantities of carved ivory products, specifically designed for Chinese tastes and openly sold to Chinese visitors.
  • China is also the world’s biggest importer of illegal timber, a trade that imperils forestswhile defrauding developing nations of billions of dollars each year in timber royalties.
  • China claims to be working to reduce its illegal timber imports, but its efforts are half-hearted at best, judging by the amount of illegal timber still flowing across its border with Myanmar.
  • Infrastructure tsunami: More damaging still are China’s plans for infrastructure expansion that will irreparably degrade much of the natural world.
  • China’s One Belt One Road initiative alone will carve massive arrays of new roads, railroads, ports, and extractive industries such as mining, logging, and oil and gas projects into at least 70 nations across Asia, Europe, and Africa.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping promises that the Belt and Road initiative will be “green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable”, but such a claim is profoundly divorced from reality.
  • As my colleagues and I recently argued in Science and Current Biology, the modern infrastructure tsunami that is largely being driven by China will open a Pandora’s box of environmental crises, including large-scale deforestation, habitat fragmentation, wildlife poaching, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • China’s pursuit of natural resources is also escalating across Latin America. In the Amazon, for example, big mining projects many of which are feeding Chinese industries – don’t just cause serious local degradation, but also promote widespread deforestation from the networks of roads bulldozed into remote areas to access the mines.
  • Overall, China is the most aggressive consumer of minerals on the planet, and the biggest driver of tropical deforestation. Beyond this, China is pushing to build a 5,000km railroad across South America, to make it cheaper for China to import timber, minerals, soy and other natural resources from ports along South America’s Pacific coast. If it proceeds, the number of critical ecosystems that would be impacted by this project is staggering.
  • A World Bank study of more than 3,000 overseas projects funded or operated by China revealed how it often treats poor nations as “pollution havens” – transferring its own environmental degradation to developing nations that are desperate for foreign investment.
  • Finally, much has been made of the fact that China is beginning to temper its appetite for domestic fossil-fuelled energy. It is now a leading investor in solar and wind energy, and recently delayed construction of more than 150 coal-fired electricity plants in China.
  • These are unquestionably pluses, but they need to be seen in their broad context. In terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, China has exploded past every other nation. It now produces more than twice the carbon emissions of the United States, the second-biggest polluter, following the greatest building spree of coal, nuclear, and large-scale hydro projects in human history.Despite its new post-Trump role as the world’s de facto climate leader, China’s overall agenda could scarcely be described as green.

Way ahead

  • Some would say it’s unfair to criticise China like this. They would argue that China is merely following a well-trodden path of exploitative development previously forged by other nations and colonial powers. But China is not the same as any other nation. The astounding growth and size of its economy, its dangerously single-minded vision for exploiting natural resources and land internationally, its intolerance of internal and external criticism, and its increasingly closed media and official myopia all combine to make it unique.
  • President Xi admits that many Chinese corporations, investors and lenders operating overseas have often acted aggressively and even illegally. But he says his government is powerless to do much about it. The most notable government response to date is a series of “green papers” containing guidelines that sound good in theory but are almost universally ignored by Chinese interests overseas.
  • Are Xi’s assertions of powerlessness believable? He increasingly rules China with an iron hand. Is it really impossible for China to guide and control its overseas industries, or are they simply so profitable that the government doesn’t want to? Of course, China’s huge international ambitions will have some positive effects, and could even be economically transformative for certain nations. But many other elements will benefit China while profoundly damaging our planet.

Question–  China’s growing footprint on the globe threatens to trample the natural world. Comment.

2.How to develop without increasing emission (The guardian)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the judicious usage of technology and associated methodologies to achieve the goal of sustainable development. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • One of the ironies of fighting climate change is that developed countries – which have benefited from decades or centuries of industrialisation – are now asking developing countries to abandon highly polluting technology.
  • But as developing countries work hard to grow their economies, there are real opportunities to leapfrog the significant investment in fossil fuel technology typically associated with economic development.

Developing nations as a part of climate change

  • According to recent analysis, six of the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases are now developing countries (this includes China). Developing countries as a bloc already account for about 60% of global annual emissions.
  • If we are to achieve the global climate targets of the Paris Agreement, these countries need an alternative path to prosperity. We must decouple economic growth from carbon emissions. In doing so, these nations may avoid many of the environmental, social and economic costs that are the hallmarks of dependence on fossil fuels.
  • This goal is not as far-fetched as it might seem. ClimateWorks has been working as part of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, a global collaboration of researchers looking for practical ways countries can radically reduce their carbon emissions – while sustaining economic growth.
  • For example, in conjunction with the Australian National University, we have modelled a deep decarbonisation pathway that shows how Australia could achieve net zero emissions by 2050, while the economy grows by 150%.
  • Similarly, data compiled by the World Resources Institute shows that 21 countries have reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously growing their economies since 2000. This includes several eastern European countries that have experienced rapid economic growth in the past two decades.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Low Carbon Index also found that several G20 countries have reduced the carbon intensity of their economies while maintaining real GDP growth, including nations classified as “developing”, such as China, India, South Africa and Mexico.

A way for sustainable development

  • If humankind is to live sustainably, future economic growth must minimise environmental impact and maximise social development and inclusion. That’s why in 2015, the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals: a set of common aims designed to balance human prosperity with protection of our planet by 2030.
  • These goals include a specific directive to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. Likewise, language in the Paris Climate Agreement recognises the needs of developing countries in balancing economic growth and climate change.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals are interconnected, and drawing these links can provide a compelling rationale for strong climate action. For example, a focus on achieving Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) that also considers Goal 13 (Climate Action) will prioritise low or zero-emissions energy technologies. This in turn delivers health benefits and saves lives (Goal 3) through improved air quality, which also boosts economic productivity (Goal 8).

Way ahead

  • Efforts to limit global temperature rise to below 2℃ must be considered within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. These global goals are intrinsically linked to solving climate change.
  • But significant barriers prevent developing countries from adopting low-emissions plans and ambitious climate action. Decarbonisation is often not a priority for less developed countries, compared to key issues such as economic growth and poverty alleviation. Many countries struggle with gaps in technical and financial expertise, a lack of resources and inconsistent energy data. More fundamentally, poor governance and highly complex or fragmented decision-making also halt progress.
  • It’s in the best interest of the entire world to help developing countries navigate these problems. Creating long-term, lowest-emissions strategies, shaped to each country’s unique circumstances, is crucial to maintaining growth while reducing emissions. Addressing these problems is the key to unlocking the financial flows required to move to a just, equitable and environmentally responsible future.

Question: How developing countries can use low- or zero-emissions alternatives to traditional infrastructure and technology?