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Health & Environment

Some people do not appreciate China’s air pollution control measures


Annual SO2 emission in million tonnes by world region (chart from OurWorldinData.org)

Reuters reported on Dec 19 that China would be launching “a nationwide carbon emission trading scheme (ETS).

The government outlined details of what is expected to be the world’s largest such program …… Trading will be based in Shanghai, involving 1,700 power companies and over 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually…”

Reuters further reported on Dec 23 that “China issued national standards for industrial firms to report their greenhouse gas emission as part of the country’s plan to launch a national carbon market in 2017 … aims to cut its carbon intensity … by 60-65 percent by 2030 from the 2005 level…”

Some reports and comments seem appreciative. For example, Justin Worland of Time says: “China just moved closer to become world’s climate leader”, and The Chemical & Engineering News says: “China creates world’s largest carbon trading program”. The Forbes is even more positive: “China carbon market just launched, and it’s the world’s largest. Here’s how it can succeed.”

However, some reports sound a bit negative. The Japan Times is one of them by saying: “Top polluter China unveils nationwide carbon market”.

True, China is right now the globe’s top polluter. However, there are three points to note.

Firstly, as reported by Los Angeles Times, “China is responsible for just 10% of global warming since the pre-industrial era, according to a new study published in the science journal Nature … China’s share of responsibility for global warming has remained remarkably consistent over the last 260 years or so ….”

In short, air and water pollution caused by the European countries during the Industrial Revolution era and the period between the two world wars were much more severe that what is being caused by the Asian nations at present. Unfortunately, except for some intellectuals in the academic circle, very few of the public know this or are interested in knowing and remembering this.

Secondly, China and some other Asian countries are doing the dirty manufacturing work for the advanced OECD members, including Japan. From leather cleansing and textile dying to metal processing and coal-power generation for mass production of goods, the developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa are the sweatshops suffering from marginal wages as well as ugly floods of toxic wastage. Were the manufacturing assembly lines moved back to Europe and America, pollution in these OECD countries would have been high or otherwise the consumers had to bear sky high retail prices for the additional strict pollution minimization measures.

Thirdly, China has been working hard to put pollution in control. Prof. Asit Biswas at LKW for Public Policy in Singapore and Kris Hartley at Cornell University, for example, suggest that “Delhi should follow Beijing’s example in tackling air pollution …… According to the World Health Organisation, ten of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India, and three in China… Nevertheless, China is making progress. The central government has taken a systematic and coordinated approach to managing air pollution…(with lots of technical details)….”

Of course, it is undeniable that China has done all these primarily for its own good. But Japan’s unfriendly reporting attitude has somehow reflected that the relation between these two peoples has little hope of improving. It is one of the many drops that are eroding the bridge. Once it is broken, combat may follow.

So, where is the ground for wishing a ‘happy new year of 2018″?

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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