Sustainable green development: China's necessary objective

China Plus Published: 2017-10-21 09:45:45
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By Cleopatra Ashley Ngwenya

The 19th session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) started on a high note with more than two 2,000 delegates from all the country's provinces attending the event. Among the list of agendas being discussed at the congress, China's Green Development Policy is top on the list. The Leader of the CPC gave an opening speech where he spoke at length about the need for development enhancing harmony between humans and nature. Green development, which was in recent years adopted by the Chinese government in a bid to alleviate environmental pollution and to enhance China's economy, focuses on community-wide or regional environmental implications of development. Its main aspect is the use of clean and renewable energy sources. In recent years, China has arguably been top on the world's list of greenhouse gas emitters posing a major concern in issues related to Climate change. In 2015, Xi Jinping, leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, called for more efforts to push green development and green lifestyles as the country seeks to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection. Speaking at the National congress, Xi Jinping emphasized the need for Chinese people to work together in building a better environment for China and for the world. "We call on the people of all countries to work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind, to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity," Xi said.

Photo taken on August 9, 2015 shows forest reserve belt of Nyang River, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Local government has adhered to "green development" so as to preserve Tibet's environment in the past decades. [Photo: Xinhua/Liu Kun]

Photo taken on August 9, 2015 shows forest reserve belt of Nyang River, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Local government has adhered to "green development" so as to preserve Tibet's environment in the past decades. [Photo: Xinhua/Liu Kun]

Green development is increasingly gaining ground in the world's second largest economy as measures have been and are still being put in place to curb the issue of pollution. China has become a major player in renewable energy and in 2013, it was listed as the lead producer of hydro-electrical and wind energy, with an average of 378GW of energy being produced from these sources. In the same year, China surpassed its lead competitor the United States. As a major push towards the green development direction, the Low carbon cities initiative was implemented in selected places such as Shenzhen in Guangdong province, Zhuhai Hengqin district in Guangdong Province, Wuhan Huashan New Ecocity in Hubei province, and Sanming Ecocity in Fujian province In April 2007. The Gansu Dang River Hydropower Project was also registered as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project according to the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. China's government has dedicated millions of dollars to posing green development as one of the most important projects in the country.

One may wonder why the focus suddenly changed, for a country that once believed that emissions were not a major problem and that there are more important issues to focus on regarding the country's economic growth. In the past, China was not regarded as one of the world's most stable economies neither did it seem to play a major role in the development of the world economy. However, owing to the Millennium summit held in New York city in November 2000, China has since raised the bar following the stipulation of Millennium Development Goal number 7 that is to ensure Environmental sustainability. Since then, China has never looked back. In fact, statistics show that the Chinese economy advanced by 1.7 percent quarter to quarter up to March 2017, better than a 1.3 percent increase in the previous years and in line with market estimates. GDP Growth in China averaged 1.83 percent from 2010 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 2.40 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and a record low of 1.30 percent in the first quarter of 2016. China's economic growth is a clear indication that the country is gaining muscle as one of the major world powers. As one of the most powerful world economies, it is therefore obligatory for China to strategically position itself in such a way that will make a name for this populous Asian country. Green Development has thus played and keeps playing a paramount role in improving the country's economy due to the reduced cost of producing energy and maintaining the energy production equipment. 

Apart from being the world's leading producer of renewable energy, China's influence is spreading to the Southern part of the World, where Africa is slowly accepting and adopting renewable energy as a source of power. Though not on a scale as compared to China, countries like Ghana, South Africa, Morocco and Kenya are introducing much sustainable sources of energy that will see a major improvement in Africa's economy in the next 10 years. The Koudia Al Baida Farm in Morocco is the largest wind farm on the continent and two other wind farms are being constructed in Tangier and Tarfaya. Likewise, a wind farm is being constructed in Kenya's Marsabit County, which is known as the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP). As one of Africa's largest wind farms, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will increase the national electricity supply while creating jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Once it is fully functional, the wind farm will provide 310MW of reliable, low cost energy to Kenya's national grid, (that is approximately 15% of installed capacity which will be bought at a fixed price by Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited) over a period of 20 years in conformity to the Power purchase agreement.

Green development does not only represent a change in China's development model, but it is also an important aspect of the strategy for the attainment of a higher status for the Chinese nation. China's 13th five-year plan (2016-2020) has set a goal for improving the overall environment to support its goal of beautifying China, thus ranking green hills and clear water as tops on the list of priorities. China has made a public stand in support of the Paris Climate accord from which US President Donald Trump withdrew. 

(Cleopatra Ashley Ngwenya is a Zimbabwean researcher on environmental science and engineering, Henan University of Technology)

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