"The People's Republic of China's environmentally sustainable development challenge is arguably the most complex and difficult that any country has ever tried to confront," says the Asian Development Bank in their new report on China's environment. "Much of the international discussion on the environment and development in the PRC fails to appreciate adequately the enormous challenges that economic growth and development are creating for environmental managers in the PRC." Indeed, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty and sustaining 9 percent GDP growth for nearly thirty years - all multiplied by China's sheer size and scale - means that development necessarily puts enourmous enourmous stress on the environment.
The Asian Development Bank, which over the past 6 months has supported Circle of Blue and CEF in a Pilot Demonstration Activity “Scoping Water and Energy Pollution Nexus in Urumqi and Qingdao for Preparing PRC’s Ministry of Environmental Protection Co-Control Program” (forthcoming), recently released a new report “Toward an Environmentally Sustainable Future: Country Environmental Analysis of the People's Republic of China”. The report highlights some of China’s environmental achievements of the past five years, such as:
- a 10% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions from 2005-2010;
- a 12.5% reduction in discharges of chemical oxygen demand over the same period;
- municipal wastewater treatment capacity increased by 450% over the past decade;
- forest coverage increased, while land degredation and desertification stopped, if not reversing course;
- energy intesity per unit of GDP dropped by 19% since 2005; and
- renewable energy has been increasingly promoted, developed and deployed.
However, the report listed several significant challenges:
- Water pollution and water availability - by 2030, water demand could exceed available supply by 200 billion cubic meters.
- Air Quality - fewer than 1% of China's cities meet WHO air quality standards, and 7 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are Chinese.
- Solid waste management: China produces 25% of the world's solid waste.
- Other challenges include: land degredation, reduced biodiversity, and inadequate forest resources.
The report goes on to examine the four main drivers of China's environmental agenda and stress: China's economic growth rate; unbalanced economic structure; energy use and make up; and urbanization. Following analysis of these factors, the report makes reccomendations for an environmentally sustainable future based on their findings. In the below video, Qingfeng Zhang of the ADB discusses the findings of the report, noting that the full cost of China's environmental degredation amounts to about 13.5% of GDP.
The full pdf of the report is available here for free.