Since developed countries did not face environmental regulation during their development, the question has been posed if these countries are imposing a double standard on developing countries such as China. Expecting China to meet the same environmental standards as developed countries seems unfair, and could limit its economic growth, as seen in the reduction of steel production after implementation of more stringent policies (Schmidt, 2004). To protect economic growth, it has been proposed that it is acceptable to develop now and clean-up the environment later. This idea is based on the concept of the Kuznet curve, but it seems optimistic to expect the desired results to be found in all times, situations, and historical periods. With population in China at levels not comparable to those in richer countries at the time of their development, the idea of a double standard is not appropriate. Due to rapid economic growth (and demands for continued growth) and large population, the potential damage to the environment is much greater in China. The gravity of the current problem, both globally and locally in China, makes the question of whether or not China should be held to the same standards as rich countries moot. Not only should China be held to the same standards, it must be held to the same, if not more stringent, standards.
(watch the film below)
While development might be a path to better environmental policies, it must be recognized that development must not necessarily depend on fossil fuels. China is in a position to take a leadership role in such a transformation of the development paradigm. Considering the size of the Chinese market for cars and energy, implementing more stringent policies on energy usage and emissions in China would effectively force manufacturers to adopt alternative strategies, such as the hydrogen powered car seen in the film (Schmidt, 2004). Through its economic might, China has the ability to not only meet current standards, but to redefine them. The economic fears the government faces can be offset by investment in green technology. In much the same way that Jeep ‘jump started’ the automotive industry, similar investments in green energy can have hugely positive effects on the Chinese economy and a ripple effect on the rest of the world.
Schmidt, C. (Director). (2004). World in the Balance: China Revs Up [Motion picture].
- Chuck Chiang: China’s new cap on coal use could destroy viability of proposed local coal terminals (vancouversun.com)
- Beijing vows ecological civilization for eco-friendly growth (wantchinatimes.com)
- To tackle pollution, China to drop pursuit of growth at all costs (reuters.com)
- Factory Growth Slows in China (nytimes.com)