A recent “green accounting” report put a headline-grabbing price tag on China’s growth. But how far is the country from calculating its real “green GDP”? Stephen Green reports on the measures that may help to assess its sustainability.
A small green bud sprouted in China’s statistical forest when a report that summarised the country’s first effort at “green accounting” was published in September 2006. The report was the result of two years’ work by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). It had backing from senior leaders who increasingly talk of “sustainable development“, a concept that many environmentalists understand as economic growth that does not damage the value of nature’s assets.
There were three headline conclusions to the NBS-SEPA report. Firstly, China emitted 511.8 billion yuan (US$64 billion) worth of pollution in 2004, equivalent to 3.1% of GDP. Secondly, the estimated clean-up cost for this pollution was calculated at 287.4 billion yuan (US$36 billion), 1.8% of GDP – around three times more than the actual money spent (100.5 billion yuan, or US$13 billion). Thirdly, if the country used current technology and today’s standards to solve this pollution at the source, it would need a one-off investment of 1,080 billion (US$135 billion), 6.8% of GDP.[Full Text]