Sunday, May 13, 2012

China, Leading in the World Toward a Sustainable Future: China’s Commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and Sustainable Economic Development

Abstract: This paper looks at efforts made by China to promote the Kyoto Protocol in the international community, including some of the difficulties that China has faced in its pursuit, the economic benefits of working toward a global sustainability, and the future of sustainability and China’s role in the future economic and ecological development of the world.

As we move further into the twenty-first century, new questions about the future of the world arise. The population, which is estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050 (Turkey), continues to increase in size, and concerns about scarce resources become ever greater, particularly in terms of the growing effect that such a large population has on the world. In order to address this issue, many countries have begun promoting sustainability and green sector markets, and international organizations like the United Nations has helped to facilitate global efforts for sustainability. The focus on discussions of sustainability is often connected to greenhouse gas emissions as well as renewable resources, green energy, and developing the capacity through adequate technology and financing to support these efforts. In this regard, China is one of the leaders in sustainability. Having been one of the first countries to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement regarding emissions, China is now one of the leaders in sustainable growth. China puts a huge amount of political pressure on the international community toward creating a sustainable future, as well as devotes an increasingly large amount of resources toward sustainable development within their country. This essay seeks to analyze China’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, as well as their green sector markets and the strength of their financial commitment towards sustainable growth, as well as how this may effect China’s future development.
Defined as “the comprehensive science of the relationship of the organism to the environment,” ecology and the study of sustainability are credited to Eugene Warming (Goodland 241). This study was founded in the 1930s upon economic models for non-renewable resources. Largely, sustainability is a response to massive population growth following the industrial revolution which is attributed to the modern idea of consumerism. Sustainability has since become a large focus on global politics leading to new national policies and international agreements, notably the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change in order curtail climate change and pursuant of the goal of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (Nations). This was truly a huge step forward for the international community in addressing sustainable government practices.
Since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, many countries have signed on to the protocol. Currently, there are 192 parties to the protocol. China is one among many who has signed the protocol. China signed the protocol on May 29th, 1998, only a month and a half after it was open for signatures. Since then, China, one of the permanent five members of the Security Council in the United Nations, has been a strong supporter of the initiative and has made extensive efforts to promote it. In the Durban Conference on climate change in November of 2011, China called upon the international body for a renewed commitment to this initiative. The Chinese diplomat present at the conference articulated his point saying:

The Durban outcome should accomplish the Bali Action Plan where developed country parties that are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol should undertake comparable quantified emission reduction commitments under the Convention and the developing country parties should implement enhanced mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development and enabled and supported by finance, technology and capacity building. (Wang)

This sort of rhetoric is not uncommon from China being that they have been overwhelmingly successful in meeting their goals under the Kyoto Protocol despite their expanding economy. Talks about financing, technology and capacity building seem to be keys in these discussions calling for countries to focus on making sustainability accessible rather than just merely mandating that certain goals be met.

Though China’s focus on the Kyoto Protocol and driving global reforms are certainly admirable, there is a great deal of incentive for China as well. Being one of the leaders of the green energy market, they will have a large market share in what is expected to be an over one trillion U.S. dollar market (Yuanyuan). In their new five-year plan, they will be investing four-hundred sixty-eight billion U.S. dollars in green sectors of their economy which is more than double the two-hundred eleven U.S. dollars they invested in the previous five years. This amount of money shows both their commitment to a global sustainability and to the importance of sustainable industries in their national economy. One online news source points out:

With this amount of public investment, China's environmental protection industry is expected to continue growing at an average of 15 to 20 percent per year, and its industrial output is expected to reach US$743 billion, up from US$166 billion in 2010. The multiplier effect of this emerging sector is estimated to be 8 to 10 times larger than other industry sectors. (Yuanyuan)

The growth of this global market will undoubtedly contribute greatly to China’s domestic economy, as well as help bring in more investors and countries on this issue. It may be possible that China will be the model to look to when it comes to the future of sustainability and economic growth.

China’s policies on sustainable economic growth have been largely successful. As laid out by the Economic and Environment Network, it can be difficult for countries to get the cooperation of some of the developing countries regarding sustainable growth due to the fact that their contribution to climate change is relatively negligible in the shadow of the developed producers of the world and they are concerned about the impact it will have on their development (Jotzo 2). As Adil Najad obverses:

The principal and  unchanged interst of the South has remained development and a better quality of life for its people; its principal fear, that the North is using environmental issues as an excuse to pull up the development ladder behind it. (Jotzo 2)

More so, countries such as the United States that is responsible for a large portion of the world’s greenhouse gasses, still have not signed onto the Kyoto Protocol or fully implemented it. Despite this, China’s permanent five status in the United Nations has given it an enormous amount of pull in international discussions regarding sustainability. Never-the-less, it is impossible to ignore the future implications on sustainability. Countries around the world have put a new focus on developing a sustainable future for new generations, including the United States, despite their failure to implement the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, the economic growth in green sectors will undoubtedly lead many countries, especially China who has proven to be a leader in its development, to new economic growth and development which will improve national markets while help to protect the environment and make the future of the world brighter for new generations.

Goodland, R. J. "The Tropical Origin of Ecology: Eugene Warming's Jubilee." Oikos (1975): Vol. 26, No. 2, Pages 240-245. JStor.
Jotzo, Frank. Developing Countries and the Future of the Kyoto Protocol. Economics and Environment Network. Australian National Univeristy, 2004.
Nations, United. "Full Text of the Convention." 2012. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 19 04 2012.
Turkey, Republic of. "Statement delivered by H.E. Mehmet Mehdi Eker the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Livestock of the Republic of Turkey at the 35th Session of IFAD's Governing Council." IFAD 35th session. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2012. 1.
Wang, Yamei. "China calls for second commitment of Kyoto Protocol." Xinhuanet (2011): 1.
Yuanyuan, Liu. "China Set to Vigorously Develop Green Economy." Renewable Energy World.Com (2012): 1.

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