Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Greening of China


Despite its huge industrial expansion and reliance on fossil fuel to drive economic growth, China's carbon footprint per capita is still less than New Zealand. Admittedly China's population is immense when compared to New Zealand and on a global scale the damaging emissions from China are far worse than ours, but it still means as a country we aren't doing the best that we can.

While China has used coal to initially grow their economy, there is general acceptance that this is not an energy source that is sustainable or environmentally viable into the future. China is now a world leader in renewable and clean energy and its exports of solar and wind powered technology is becoming an increasingly important part of their economy. China is also building the world's most ambitious ecocity, that will serve as a model for future urban development across the country.

It is difficult to see how our "Clean Green", "100% Pure" claims will hold fast with so much now happening that contradict them. With intensive, poorly regulated farming degrading our waterways to the extent that 90% of our lowland rivers are polluted and the Government placing the mining of coal and lignite at the top of their energy strategy shows us moving in the opposite direction of China. The fact that up to $11 billion is to be spent on motorways and the level of spending on public transport isn't keeping up with demand shows an unrealistic dependence on the ongoing availability of cheap fossil fuels. When other countries are growing their rail capacity New Zealand shuts down rail workshops and lays off skilled workers.

While we still have some credibility as a "Green" country, surely we should be striving to develop industry and infrastructure that fits the image. We should be among the world leaders in sustainable farming, green technologies and eco-friendly communities. With the rebuild of Christchurch there is much potential to include green and sustainable principles to make it a model for other cities in New Zealand and as an international gateway into our country this first impression is an important one. Our laws and regulations should support a green economy and all our research and energy should be to this end. Russel Norman has clearly outlined how this can happen, while National's lack of a plan and reliance on market forces is clearly a route to disaster.  

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