The "low-carbon economy," an attention-grabbing slogan gaining increasing popularity in China, can be summed up as an economic development mode based on more efficient energy use that minimizes pollution and waste emissions. The concept is widely seen as an eventual and effective solution to addressing the environmental woes China faces today.
For three decades, the Chinese economy has been growing exceptionally rapidly. Although this has greatly reinforced the nation's overall strength and lifted people's living standards, huge damage has been done to the ecology of many parts of the country. China accounts for more than half of the world's top 20 most polluted cities and is among the world's leading sources of greenhouse gases and carbon-dioxide emissions. Related headaches also have cropped up, such as resources depletion, land degradation and unfavorable climate change, all of which constitute colossal stumbling blocks along the path to sustainable development that China wishes to take.
To cope with these environmental problems, China has adopted various measures ranging from closing polluting businesses and promoting energy efficiency and cleaner fuels to imposing severe punishments on environmental lawbreakers, as well as carrying out extensive forestation campaigns. These endeavors are paying off: A recent United Nations report says China has become a global leader in the development of wind and solar energy technology, with a total output value for the renewable energy sector amounting to $17 billion. An estimate by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's economic planner, indicates that China has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 billion tons since 2005.
More encouraging is the wise and positive response from the general public in the country. An increasing number of individual Chinese have come to realize the urgent necessity of safeguarding their environment, and many now embrace an economical and environmentally-friendly lifestyle, driving cars that burn less fuel and emit less toxic gases, cutting down on the use of energy-intensive devices such as air conditioners and elevators and practicing thrift down to everything as trivial as blank pieces of paper. This growing public awareness, which needs to be further enhanced, will serve to strongly support the nation's continued environmental efforts.
Just prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, scheduled for mid-December in Copenhagen, China has announced yet another ambitious plan to promote a low-carbon economy: to reduce the country's per-unit GDP carbon-dioxide emission by 40-45 percent in 2020 from that of 2005. This is on top of the 47-percent cut in energy consumption per-unit GDP China achieved between 2000 and 2005. While applauding this bold and resolute move, many Chinese scholars have voiced worries that the goal will likely be fulfilled at the expense of slowing down the country's booming economy—or even turning the growth rate negative.
Needless to say, the announced plan is a difficult decision, and to reach the target poses a huge challenge for China, given the country's pressing development needs and lack of necessary funding and technology. The Chinese Government, however, looks determined to go ahead. Once again, this demonstrates China's commitment to the international community's call to jointly fight global warming and climate change, and preserve a clean, sound world for our benefit and that of future generations.