China’s Industrial Growth ‘A Threat To Resources’

Li Jing at The South China Morning Post reports on a United Nations Environment Program study on China’s resource consumption. The study finds that the speed and scale of resource consumption in the past 38 years in China has no precedent in history, and calls into question whether Beijing’s urbanization policy is really sustainable:

In the last three decades, China has grown from a modest user of minerals, fossil fuels and other primary materials to become the world’s largest consumer, the report found.

The country consumed 22.6 billion tonnes of such materials in 2008 – nearly a third of the world’s total – up from 1.7 billion tonnes in 1970. It consumes four times as much as the United States, the second-biggest user.

[…]The country’s population grew to 1.3 billion from 816 million over the 38-year period.

But the amount of resources used by every citizen has also soared as their living standards improved. Per capita resource consumption rose from 31 per cent of the world average in 1970 to 1.62 times the world average in 2008, with the sharpest rise coming after 2000. [Source]

The scale of consumption is likely to cause massive problems for China, at home and internationally, according to the author of the UN report, who urges China to take action to improve the efficiency of energy use, as well as environmental degradation.

Read the full UNEP report here.

Read more about China’s sustainable development and use of natural resources via CDT.