CANCUN, Mexico - The Songxian county in Central China's Henan province, home to more than half a million people, is on the government's list of impoverished counties. Its annual revenue is not much more than 300 million yuan ($45 million).
Yet about 10 million yuan in revenue is expected to be lost in the last three months of this year since polluting mines and factories were shut down under the government policy to reduce carbon emissions and conserve energy. The decision also cost between 200 and 300 jobs.
"The pressure on environment protection and people's lives are extremely acute, but I feel there is no other way out for us but to pursue a low-carbon economy," Li Dawei, the county chief, told China Daily on the opening day of China Day, a side event organized by the Climate Group, an international non-governmental organization (NGO).
As head of one of the more than 2,000 counties in China, Li wanted the rest of the world to know that county-level governments are fighting climate change. He said much of the central government's commitment to carbon reduction will be fulfilled at the county level.
With little access to highways and overseas investors, Li said the difficulty of switching to a low-carbon economy has multiplied. He does hope the central government will give him more support in its policies to help restructure the county's economy, where scenic zones sit side by side with gold and rare-metal mines.
Yang Xin of Green River, an NGO that raises public awareness of glaciers in China, said there is a lot of attention about low-lying areas but not much at all about people living in the highlands.
"In the long run, these people will become ecological refugees, too, although in the short term it might mean warm weather and more flourishing plants," he said.
Green River, based in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan province, has brought eight supporters to Cancun to voice their concerns. At home in China, it has organized events to raise awareness among college students and publicize scientific research about China's disappearing glaciers.
The three-day China Day event, which brought dozens of government officials, entrepreneurs and NGO representatives, is an effort to show China's resolve in switching to a low-carbon economy.
"The event is a good example to help build bridges, which is essential for a green revolution to happen," said Mark Kenber, deputy CEO of the Climate Group.
Though he said China is ahead of schedule in developing renewable energy and meeting energy efficiency targets, Li Junfeng, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, admits huge challenges lay ahead.
"We have no other choice but to take a low-carbon approach. Every city represented here and everyone here would like to take the low-carbon approach, but don't know how to take the good approach. That's why we came here to seek help and find solutions," said Li, who has been dealing with China's climate change negotiations for many years.
"To halve emissions by mid-century, we need all levels of governments in every nation of the world to be looking to clean up their act," said Changhua Wu, Greater China director of the Climate Group.
"With an unprecedented urban growth rate and a wealthier urban population consuming increasingly more energy and resources per capita, cities are seen as central to China's climate challenge," she said to a crowd of foreign journalists, government officials, business people and NGO representatives.
(China Daily 12/08/2010 page11)