China’s leadership will not change the environmental direction

Air pollution caused by industrial plants
Air pollution caused by industrial plants

China’s leadership change will not alter the direction of the country’s environmental and climate policies, according to policy observers. This will be welcome news to businesses involved in the country, or looking to expand there as well as the growing opportunities for UK business, particularly in emissions trading.

Having undertaken a number of environmental auditing projects in China covering metallurgical production, road building, chemical factories and ship building, I have been privileged to witness first-hand the tremendous economic growth and, also, the environmental devastation that this has followed.

Xi Jinping was anointed as the new head of the Communist Party of China on taking charge of a relatively conservative leadership from the former president Hu Jintao.

There has been great uncertainty over the past year as China is always secretive about issues such as this the change of leadership and this uncertainty has not been helped by a string of scandals this year, such as senior politician Bo Xilai’s involvement in the murder of a British businessman.

Recently, China has received rightful praise from environmentalists for its last two five-year plans, which have seen it put great effort into improving the country’s energy efficiency at a time of strong growth. The current plan, which runs until 2015, includes targets to improve energy intensity per unit of GDP by 16%, and reduce carbon intensity per unit of GDP by 17%. It also features a target to increase non-fossil fuels to 11.4% of primary energy consumption, up from 8.3% in 2011, and other targets to reduce pollutants and water consumption. Some of these are part of wider targets to 2020.

Environmentalists would obviously want the new leadership to build on those targets, rather than see them scaled back to seek a more, consumerist stance.

According to policy experts, there is widespread expectation that Xi and Li will continue to push that green agenda.

With the prospect that China will be launching seven emissions trading pilot schemes in 2013, including in Beijing, Tianjin and Guangdong and linked to those trials, both Beijing and Tianjin have set targets to cap energy consumption from 2015, there is a grwoing demonstration that China wants to be considereda first-world country and take on its fair-share of the obligations arising from the Kyoto Protocol.

The global environmental movement will watch the progress of China with great interest and hope…

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