Environmental Issues China is Currently Facing

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China is widely known for the country’s poor air quality, pollution, and environmental degradation. This reputation is largely due to China’s quick industrialization and urbanization. The industrialization allowed for China to become a leading competitor economically it has also made China the leading country with the most carbon emissions, contributing to the problematic air quality. The poor air quality in China has been tested on the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality scale, where a pollution rating of above 300 is too dangerous to breathe in. According to the Washington Post, in the month of January alone, Beijing’s air exceeded the score of 300 for 19 days.

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In Live Sciences article, China’s Top 6 Environmental Concerns, by Marc Lallanilla, the author compares Beijing’s horrible air quality to, “living inside a smoking lounge.” China is not only faced by poor air quality. The nation suffers from other forms of pollution, such as water pollution. Water pollution has become a growing issue in China in recent years. Not only is this detrimental for the environment and the wild-life, but this also proves to be a health concern for Chinese citizens. According to China Water Risk, 2014 State of Environment Report Review, approximately 660 cities in China suffer from water pollution. The main culprit for this form of contamination is corporate China, specifically industries that lie near main sources of water. China’s impact on the environment does not solely impact the Chinese environment, but is also prevalent on a global scale. China burns more coal than the rest of the world combined, and produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused global warming gases, according to the New York Times in China Unveils an Ambitious Plan to Curb Climate Change Emissions, Water and air pollution are just 2 of many environmental issues China faces today. The environmental crisis is beginning to negatively impact China’s economy as well, as it is costly. According to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, the costs of pollution issues alone are estimated to be $227 billion USD.

What is the government doing to better the environment?

Amidst the variety of China’s environmental issues, the Chinese government has been making recent changes in legislation in a push to solve China’s current environmental crisis. The communist government is motivated to do so by a number of reasons. For example, investing in sustainable options for the country can prove to be economically beneficial. One other driving force of change in legislation was pushed by protests. In fact, Chen Jiping, leader of the Communist party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs said that the environmental crisis was a major reason as to the occurrences of “mass incidents” in China. “Mass incidents” meaning more than 100 people gathering for both peaceful protesting and rioting. The number of environmental protests is only growing. In fact, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, in the article, China’s Environmental Crisis, the number of environmental protests rose in 2013 by 31% from 2012. It is clear that the environmental crisis that China is suffering is something that the Chinese are willing to fight. The communist party has responded to the public outroar by changes in legislation.

The National Development and Reform Commission released a 5-year plan to battle climate change, known as the 13th five year plan. This plan sets goals for climate change by the year 2020. The plan includes goals to mitigate climate change, develop low-carbon pilot projects, to promote sustainability within society, and more. Furthermore, the Chinese government has also, in recent years, began implementing, “eco-cities”. According to Wade Shepard’s Forbes article, No Joke: China is Building 285 Eco-Cities, Here’s Why, an eco-city is an urban development designed environmentally friendly. The goal of eco-cities is to set a standard for other urban cities in China. They also aim to slow down or prevent further environmental degradation, and promote a more sustainable urban lifestyle. Eco-cities do so through low-carbon modes of transportation, utilizing renewable energy sources, having more energy-efficient buildings, and etc. Furthermore, citizen demand played a large role in the implementation of eco-cities in China, as citizens have become more eco-conscious in recent years, Shepard saying, “Nobody mistakes the smog for fog anymore. As the 2000’s turned the corner into the 2010’s, and an educated middle-class has emerged, it has become overtly clear that China needs to do something about its environment”.

To both promote sustainability, as the Chinese government promised in the 13th five year plan, and to provide for eco-cities, China has become the biggest manufacturer in the world of solar panels and wind turbines, produces the most hydro-power and according according to Austin Williams, an architecture and design expert, “China has the potential to be a significant player in biomass and geothermal energy supply. So China is entering the world stage as a renewable energy powerhouse and is trying to create urban areas that reflect that”.

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