"The depletion, deterioration, and exhaustion of resources and the worsening ecological environment have become bottlenecks and grave impediments to the nation's economic and social development."
If you were to guess which country's environment minister made that statement, China probably wouldn't be your first guess. The U.S., maybe. Possibly Germany, or South Korea. But not China.
In an essay published on the agency's website, Chinese environment minister Zhou Shengxian issued a stern warning about the negative effects of unbridled economic development, not only on the environment, but also on sustained economic growth and social stability in the future. The minister also announced a new program under which the government will assess the climate change effects of development initiatives.
"We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption," Zhou said.
China is clearly taking bold and beneficial steps for their country and the world, but change won't come easy. Federal environmental decrees are often ignored by local officials more concerned with economic growth than environmental protection. And China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, thanks largely to its reliance on coal power and increasing consumption of oil. But the government has also shown an ability to get things done; last summer the Prime Minister announced that he would use an "iron hand" to improve energy efficiency, and subsequently closed more than 2,000 steel mills, cement plants, and energy intensive factories.
China has a long way to go, but has the potential to step up and become the environmental leader that other nations are afraid to become.
Photo: A coal-burning power station near Beijing. (David Gray/Reuters)