COPENHAGEN: Though a low-carbon economy and a place where people can tap into their full potential could both be achieved, in the next 10 to 20 years, human development remains China's top priority, Chinese experts say.
The stand on investing in people was made at an event in conjunction with the Copenhagen climate change conference and ahead of the Tuesday release of key findings from the China Human Development Report 2009/10.
The report, to be published in its entirety early next year, requires human development to be taken into consideration in developing a low carbon economy.
It goes on to state that "human development should allow people to live a healthy and decent life, to have education and to have a say in the policy-making process."
It is not reflected solely by GDP growth, said the report.
Zou Ji, professor of Renmin University and the report's lead author, said over 700 million people in China are living substandard lives.
"They don't have flushing toilets and they don't even have clean tap water. So we still need urbanization," he said.
More than 270 million Chinese people do not have access to an adequate supply for safe drinking water, said the report.
China said in late November that it was targeting a hefty 40-45 percent cut in carbon intensity by 2020 from the 2005 level.
"The effort to reduce carbon emissions should not come at a price that makes our national economy suffer and make our farmers suffer," Zou said.
The Chinese government could easily issue an order for deeper cuts, but that would make the poor people remain poor, he said.
"China could realize (its newly released target) all on its own, but if some other industrialized countries are asking for more cuts, it has to provide financing and technology," he said, adding that those who do not offer a helping hand should not have the right to ask China to cut more.
"China does have the money to invest a lot in developing and applying CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) technology, but the same money could also be used to improve standards of living of the extremely poor."
"China needs urbanization so that people could have strong houses that won't fall during earthquakes. China needs to build roads, power plants, water pipes and waste-water treatment plants for them," he said.
Even to meet people's basic needs for clothes, food, shelter and transportation, China would see a rise in carbon emissions, Zou said.
"China does not have enough cotton to make 100 percent cotton clothes for every person, so it needs synthetic fiber that comes from oil refining, the process of which generates emissions. China does not have enough organic food to feed people, it needs chemical fertilizer that also comes from oil refining," he said.
The report also said that as China is committed to reduce carbon intensity by 40 to 50 percent, it will also witness a sharp increase in incremental investments to do so.
"It will cost the country $30 billion more to meet the 45 percent target, and to cost another $80 billion to $90 billion to achieve the 50 percent target," Zou said, adding that though China will spend a lot more effort to meet that goal, it is still within reach.
Increase in income and overall human development will generate more energy consumption and carbon emissions, but it will be reduced with the implementation of technological innovations and a more sustainable lifestyle.
Zou listed a total number of 60 technologies that China needs from international cooperation for emissions reduction, such as CCS, fourth-generation nuclear power generators, high efficiency energy storage technology, electric vehicles and smart grids.
(China Daily 12/17/2009 page10)