Beijing Water

Chinese Environment Minister: Environmental degradation may cause economic ‘bottleneck’

(February 28, 2011) Reuters reports on an unusually frank essay by the Chinese environment minister on how environmental devastation could stunt economic development.

By Chris Buckley

China faces acute environmental and resource strains that threaten to choke growth unless the world’s second-biggest economy cleans up, the nation’s environment minister said in an unusually blunt warning.

In an essay published on Monday, Zhou Shengxian also said his agency wants to make assessing projected greenhouse gas emissions a part of evaluating proposed development projects.

That could give China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection more sway in climate change issues, an area dominated by agencies whose main interest is shoring up industrial growth.

Zhou set environmental worries at the heart of China’s next phase of economic development — a theme in focus at the country’s annual parliament session starting on Saturday.

“In China’s thousands of years of civilisation, the conflict between humanity and nature has never been as serious as it is today,” Zhou said in the essay published in the China Environment News, his ministry’s official newspaper.

“The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development.”

Zhou’s words highlight the policy struggle in China between stoking growth and taming pollution and resource consumption. On Sunday, Premier Wen Jiabao also said the country should aim for slower, cleaner growth.

“This is a crucial time for deciding policy, so he’s trying to bring more urgency to getting more teeth for his ministry by making people grasp the huge challenges,” said Yang Ailun, the head of climate and energy for Greenpeace China, an advocacy group, speaking of Zhou’s essay.

Chinese officials often promote the need to maintain fast economic growth to pull hundreds of millions of citizens out of hardship. But Zhou said prospects for growth could be threatened unless smoggy skies, polluted rivers and reckless exploitation of mine reserves are taken much more seriously in setting policy.

Read the full story here.

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