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UPDATED: November 26, 2012 NO. 48 NOVEMBER 29, 2012
The Future Is Green
As the country's development charts a new course, the environment comes into focus
By Li Li

A FACELIFT: (above) Coke ovens smolder on a hill in Linfen City, north China's Shanxi Province on September 6, 2005. (below) Linfen enjoys a clear day on May 31, 2011, after the local government closed down more than 700 energyintensive and highly polluting factories between 2006 and 2007 (ZHANG JUN)

"In Hu's report at the 17th CPC National Congress in 2007, 'ecological progress' only appeared twice in one paragraph while in his report at this congress the term appears 15 times in seven paragraphs."

Li believes that such emphasis is not unnecessary. He said that the Chinese public is now highly sensitive to environmental issues and many of Guiyang's local petitions are about environmental pollution.

"We are obligated to meet people's demands for a clean environment, including clean drinking water, fresh air, safe food and beautiful surroundings," Li said.

Promising activism

In recent years, China's environmental NGOs have become more active as they receive more government support and funding from the corporate world.

In 2010, a consortium of 34 environmental NGOs, under the name of Green Choice Alliance, conducted research on farmland contamination by heavy metal, which drew heavy media attention. They found that several China-based contract manufacturers of major global IT brands were responsible for heavy metal contamination in their vicinities. After releasing a report, the groups asked 29 major brands, including Apple and Vodafone, to provide more information about the Chinese facilities where their products are made. Eventually, the groups succeeded in revving up pressure on companies like Apple, which initially refused to answer questions about pollution regulation across their supply chains.

China's environmental groups have also gone beyond the country's borders to promote global public action. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, Chinese NGOs jointly organized an event to promote the C+ Initiative, a climate change effort with the slogan "Beyond Government Commitment, Beyond Climate Change, Beyond China."

Li Ruinong, a long-time observer of environmental NGOs in China, is pleased with their increased participation in broader regional and national issues.

Zhang Yadong, Director General of Green Longjiang, a youth environmental group founded in 2002, is dedicated to protecting the environment in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Zhang told China Industrial Economy News that the organization has effectively cooperated with government agencies when organizing activities, especially environmental awareness campaigns. The government has also offered Green Longjiang assistance in finding and releasing companies' environmental records. Zhang said that this progress should be attributed to the public's growing awareness of the work of environmental NGOs in recent years.

On June 29, the Environmental Protection Bureau of Wuxi in eastern Jiangsu Province, offered cash grants to five environmental NGOs, 5,000 yuan ($803) each, to support their work on government-initiated projects. It was the first time a government environmental agency in the province gave financial assistance to environmental NGOs.

"The money is not much, but the act has given us great confidence," China Industrial Economy News quoted an anonymous member of one NGO as saying.

Meanwhile, more companies are also pooling money to support environmental efforts outside the government.

In May 2011, Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce company, announced a plan to earmark 0.3 percent of its annual revenues to fund efforts designed to boost environmental awareness and conservation in China and around the world. Last year, the company's revenues hit $2.8 billion.

Since 2000, the Ford Conservation & Environmental Grants have become the best known annual environmental protection award that is independently organized by the private sector in China.

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