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China restarts study on 'green GDP'

China's central government to consider different ways of measuring economic growth to account for the costs of pollution

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(Image by Land Rover Our Planet)

China’s environment ministry is to consider whether the performance of provincial officials should take account of Green GDP – which measures the environmental damage caused by economic growth.
 
China’s environmental crisis has been blamed in part on performance targets that have measured success on the pace of economic growth, meaning that officials have raced to build new roads, factories, power plants and housing without consideration of the environmental consequences.  
 
China’s President Xi Jinping has told officials: “We can no longer decide who is succeeding based on nothing but GDP figures.”
 
The government started researching the feasibility of implementing Green GDP measures 11 years ago. But the idea withered on the vine as the central government devolved more decisions on environmental planning to the provinces, who in a rush to meet ambitious targets gave to the nod to hugely-polluting projects.  
 
The cult of economic growth – without much consideration of the consequences - has contributed to worsening air quality seen in many Chinese cities, as highly polluting factories and power plants were allowed to open or weren’t regulated or shut down.
 
This means that heavily-industrialised provinces such as Hebei are coming under increasing pressure to shutter power plants, cement factories and steel works, particularly if these are inefficient or surplus capacity.
 
But the closure of highly energy-intensive installations could mean big job losses and slash economic growth in many provinces - at least in the short term - which partly explains why the government has been reluctant to implement green GDP so far.  
 
However, some studies make the case that the shutdown of polluting, wasteful industries will give greater encouragement to low carbon and green technologies, which in time would create many more jobs than those lost in mines, power plants and steelworks. 
 
Over a decade ago, the State Environmental Protection Agency (now the MEP) and the National Bureau of Statistics started to research whether environmental factors should be included in GDP calculations.
 
According to Pan Yue, who was deputy head of SEPA, one of the aims of the idea of Green GDP was “to encourage officials to consider the environment when making policy decisions.”
 
The experiment initially got some support. In October 2004, after being designated a trial area for calculations of Green GDP, the province of Zhejiang expressed deep interest, and several months later trial work got underway.
 
At that time, Xi Jinping, who was then party secretary of Zhejiang, acknowledged that economic growth had come at a major environmental cost.  
 
One environmental expert, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the restarting of Green GDP research shows the Chinese government has admitted this is the correct approach – despite the wrong turning on the way. 

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匿名 | Anonymous

什么是绿色GDP

绿色GDP似乎像是“彩虹末端出现的金子” (意指:希望或者梦想最终实现、成功了)。我们还未触及到但这是非常有吸引力。上一次关于绿色GDP的尝试在2007年,由于技术层面的问题以及受到评估的地方政府的反对而以失败告终。(参见中国的绿色GDP实验以及生态现代化的努力,作者:VIC LI & GRAEME LANG 来源:当代亚洲期刊,2010年2月)
这一次,怎样可以让绿色GDP更加稳健呢?

What is Green GDP

Green GDP seems like the 'gold at the end of the rainbow'. It is something very attractive which we can never touch.

The last attempt at Green GDP failed in 2007 on technical problems combined with opposition from Local Governments whose performance was being judged. (See China’s ‘‘Green GDP’’ Experiment and the Struggle for Ecological Modernisation by VIC LI & GRAEME LANG in Journal of Contemporary Asia February 2010)

What has been done to make Green GDP more robust this time?

Robert Gibson