Despite Thomas Friedman’s general optimism about Beijing’s ability and willingness to reverse decades of environmental degradation, this article in the Guardian shows that, on the ground, there is still a long way to go:
Anping County, in Hebei Province, cut electricity to homes, factories and public buildings for 22 hours every three days in a radical move that has highlighted both the serious last-minute effort that China is making to achieve environmental goals and the immense long-term difficulty of shifting away from a dirty, wasteful model of economic growth.
There are less than four months left until the end of China’s current five-year plan, during which the economy is supposed to have become 20% more energy efficient. That target (which measures energy use relative to GDP growth) is crucial for a nation that wants to move up the economic value chain and prove to the world that it is making a significant contribution toward tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
Progress towards this goal was initially good, with a 14.4% gain in efficiency until last year. But it was tilted off track in the first three months of 2010 by huge infrastructure spending – largely on energy-intensive steel and cement projects – aimed at warding off the worst effects of the global economic downturn.