Pollution takes heavy toll on China

Feb. 6, 2012 at 7:50 AM
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BEIJING, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- China is paying a high price for pollution resulting from the country's soaring economic development fueled by low energy costs, an environmental report claims.

The average cost of China's resources output is $320 to $350 a ton and continues to decrease, states the China Green National Accounting Study Report by the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, an arm of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The document was noted in a China Daily report.

That compares with developed economies, which pay $2,500 to $3,500 a ton.

"This means we are consuming about 10 times more energy than the developed economies for the same amount," Ma Jun, director of China's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-government organization protection agency, told the newspaper.

"The resources are too cheap here," Ma said of China, the world's largest energy consumer.

Many local governments, particularly in less economically developed areas of the country, are becoming hostage to heavy-pollution industries in their pursuit of a booming economy, he said.

"The pollution produced by companies, especially those in the steel, smelting, cement and chemical industries, is far beyond those cities' capacity to control (it)," said Ma.

"We enjoy the temporary prosperity and leave the burden to our next generation."

The report comes in the wake of a spill of toxic cadmium in southern China's Longjiang River. The spill threatens drinking water supplies for millions of people, sparking calls by environmental activists for stricter enforcement of the country's environmental regulations and more transparency in reporting of accidents when they occur.

"The damage to the environment not only results in health problems but in financial loss as well," said Ma.

The cost of environmental and ecological damage to China skyrocketed to nearly $222 billion in 2009, a 9.2 percent increase from the year before, the report states. As a result, China spent 3.8 percent of its gross domestic product for environmental cleanup.

"It's a vicious circle if we continue to strive for economic prosperity at the cost of huge energy consumption and environmental pollution and it's time we wake up and curb the trend," Ma said.

The report also states that China's carbon dioxide emissions had more than doubled from 3.5 billion tons in 2000 to 7.2 billion tons in 2009. By that time, China had overtaken the United States as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Ye Qi, a professor of environmental policy at Tsinghua University and director of the Climate Policy Initiative in Beijing, predicts that by 2015, China will emit nearly 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the U.S., Climatewire reports.

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