Let the G in GDP be for green

By Ravis.Narasimhan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-08 06:38

The time has come to talk of many things, not of cabbages (plentiful in Beijing winters) or why the sea is boiling hot (global warming?).

It is that time of the year again no, not for resolutions, the time for that has passed but for bigger things like economic forecasts and targets.

There is (almost) unanimity that the world's fastest-growing major economy will keep pace with previous years and notch up another year of 10 percent growth maintaining its Perfect 10 record of the past four years.

But there will be one red blot on the report card the green component.

I am no tree-hugger (even though the phrase "chipko" which literally means sticking to something originated in my home country, India. Environmentalists started hugging trees and would not let go, to protest against logging in forests).

But I have started to change subtly refusing unnecessary plastic bags, switching off lights not needed and reusing towels (I live in a serviced apartment).

It could be peer pressure. Most of my friends seem to be going green and at least one, a former colleague, is making a living out of it. Or the persuasion of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who declares that "Green isn't Girlie" and used three columns in a row recently urging China to be a global green leader.

There's justifiable cause for concern.

Last month, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, said energy efficiency goals would miss their mark in fact, way off for the year. In a disappointing turn, energy consumption per unit of GDP grew by 0.8 percent in the first half of the year compared with the target of annual reduction by 4 percent.

That means the ambitious target of reducing energy usage per unit of GDP by 20 percent in the 2006-10 period got off to a bad start.

One reason is the "Green GDP" project, launched amid much fanfare a couple of years ago with 10 provinces and municipalities signed on seems to have lost momentum. Some of the local governments it wasn't revealed which want to pull out.

The usual suspects, as in other matters like work safety, are local government officials who fear they may fall behind in the economic sweepstakes.

Green GDP attempts to factor in the cost of environmental degradation into economic growth; and experts estimate that if ecological costs are deducted, China's annual growth could be cut by as much as 3 percentage points.

The Chinese government is well aware of the figures and the consequences and has taken a host of measures to address the issue.

But there's more to be done.

Without a new cultural revolution to make China greener and more environemntally sustainable, the Chinese growth juggernaut will destroy itself, says Friedman, whose new book is entitled "Green is the New Red, White, Blue".

"We have never seen 1.3 billion people grow as fast in the history of the world. If you grow now and clean up later, there will be no 'later'."

Speaking of later, one of the most touching epitaphs in India to soldiers killed in battle against the Japanese in 1944, reads:

When you go home

Tell them of us and say,

For their tomorrow,

We gave our today.


Just make a few compromises with our lifestyles so that our children have a better tomorrow.

Email: ravi@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 01/08/2007 page4)

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