China should seek low carbon future to preserve economic gains, says UN report

15 April 2010

China needs to tackle climate change and environmental degradation or risks reversing the social and economic progress that has made it the second largest economy in the world, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released today.

China needs to tackle climate change and environmental degradation or risks reversing the social and economic progress that has made it the second largest economy in the world, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released today.

“China is at a critical juncture when the business as usual growth model is not sufficient to the country’s emerging challenges and pressures,” said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China.

“The shift to a low carbon development pathway is imperative as China balances further economic development with environmental sustainability and the need to respond to the threat of climate change,” he added.

The report, China and a Sustainable Future, towards a Low carbon Economy and Society, written in partnership with Renmin University of China, argues that the country has had “no other choice” but to shift to a low carbon development path as it continues to urbanize.

China is now home to one-quarter of the world’s largest cities and is predicted to see 350 million of its rural population migrate to urban areas over the next two decades.

The authors acknowledged that the low carbon model might bring temporary risks such as job losses, higher prices and fiscal revenue shortfalls.

However, advantages could include long-lasting green job opportunities, greater competitiveness in new technology, technological innovation, improved standing in the world, and reduced harm to human health and the protection of vital ecosystems.

China’s low carbon policies should be used to foster the transformation of economic growth and industrial upgrading, and prioritize low carbon energy such as wind, biomass and solar energy.

“Most of the energy-consuming assets needed between now and 2020 have yet to be built. China’s success in moving towards low carbon development will be shaped by the types of investments, choices of technologies and organizational decisions that are made in the near future,” the report concluded.

The launch comes ahead of next week’s Major Economic Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington, which China is scheduled to attend.

China is taking part in the UN-led climate change talks and has committed to voluntarily reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of economic growth by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels.

 

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