Sunday, 12 August 2012

Will climate change constrain China's development? Part 2: Green growth pathways

There are two key ways in which climate change will affect China’s development.  Firstly the impacts of climate change on China (such as increasing droughts and water shortages, increases in severe weather events and rising sea level, and the costs of air pollution) will affect China’s population and its economic development.  These effects were discussed in a previous post.  The second consideration is to how difficult it will be to shift China’s current economic model to one of low carbon development and the costs and benefits of doing so. 

China has developed very rapidly in a very resource intensive manner which has grown the economy and reduced poverty in China whilst simultaneously producing huge levels of pollution that are now having a substantial impact on the Chinese quality of life and a negative impact on continuing economic development.  China was able to borrow ideas for its development from both Soviet and western examples, and has followed a fairly familiar development path.  China has also borrowed the idea of “develop first clean up later”.  Given the dire state of the Chinese environment, and the global imperative to reduce emissions, this is unlikely to be a viable pathway for China.  But there are obstacles with Chinese characteristics in China shifting its economy to a low carbon pathway.