The thick smog hanging over Beijing is a worrying sight for the world’s athletes, who will gather there next year. Environmentalists, too, have long been concerned by the Chinese capital’s appalling air quality. It is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
By 2009 China is expected become the number one polluter in the world, taking over from the United States. And it has no intention of changing.
Chinese delegate to the Bali conference Xie Zhenhua said: “We will absolutely not take on the commitment at the same levels as developed countries. The issue of greenhouse gas emissions seems on the surface to be an obvious environmental issue but in reality, it is a development issue. So the best way to approach it is through sustainable development.”
China is not constrained by the Kyoto protocol. Like India, it believes that any measures that would impinge on its booming economy are unacceptable. Beijing says the Chinese people have the same right to a lifestyle that the West has long enjoyed. However, some experts believe Beijing is not about to renege on its environmental responsibilities.
Independent adviser to the energy industry in Beijing James Brock, said: “They are going to say, in essence look, we are going to develop a programme. It’s going to be quite aggressive. We are going to show you reductions in CO2 and energy use that are far greater, from a business as usual case, than you are doing anywhere else.
“So by performing on that, China will basically say to the rest of the world: ‘Match us. If you don’t match us stop complaining.’ But when they say ‘match us’, they are going to say that means you’ve got those countries already producing the CO2 – you’ve got to cut.”
The big challenge for China is to cut the amount of coal it uses to generate electricity. Some 70 per cent of the energy produced in the country comes from coal. But things are changing, China is moving into cleaner energy production, such as dams and wind farms.