Worldwatch report focuses on China’s green future

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

China’s environmental problems remain a cause for global concern as climate change continues to reduce agricultural production and create instability in world food prices, according to The Worldwatch Institute’s report Green Economy and Green Jobs: Current Status and Potentials for 2020. The report was co-authored with a research team at the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies led by Dr. Pan Jiahuathe. It cites alarming facts about the status of China's environmental stability, including the placement of seven Chinese cities on a list of the top ten most polluted places on earth. "In 2005, water in 59 percent of rivers was undrinkable, along with 70 percent of water reserves and inland lakes, and one quarter of all aquifers polluted with more than half of urban aquifers heavily polluted," according to the report.

In order to address its dire environmental problems, China is establishing millions of green jobs in the forestry, energy, and transportation sectors. In particular, China is making efforts to use wind and solar power to greatly reduce China's dependence on coal and create jobs in the manufacturing of wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels, and solar water heaters. Additionally, the implementation of high-speed rail throughout the country will allow faster access to business centers and connect people from different regions, while creating jobs in manufacturing and service. While such efforts will help move China in a positive direction, the greatest opportunities for green jobs may be in the sustainable agriculture sector. Sustainable agriculture is a key component in reducing air pollution and water contamination, protecting forests and wildlife, all while producing nutritious food.

At a time when China's population is growing, producing healthy food is of critical importance. But pollution has taken its toll on agriculture by reducing crop production, including a loss 10 million tons of grain production annually, according to the report. China is also facing its worst drought in 6o years which has caused food prices to go up, Oxfam USA notes that in March of this year food prices in China were nearly 12 percent higher than were the previous March. China has emphasized forestry as an effective way of addressing pollution while creating employment opportunities. The report states that forestation alone accounted for 1.8 million full-time green jobs in 2010, and that "nourishing these forested areas is vital for sustaining the country's green transition."

In addition, according to the report, agriculture is one of the largest users of energy in China and that China is also the world's largest producer of fertilizer. In 2010 China’s fertilizer production totaled 66.20 million tons, the largest output in history.

China could also benefit from urban forests as a way to use agriculture to provide environmental benefits. When trees and other vegetation, like urban farms and gardens are planted they act like sinks for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus contributing to reduction of greenhouse gases and reducing air pollution. Urban forests are being looked at by urban planners around the world, including China, as a way to contribute to the health of urban areas.

Worldwatch’s report is the first to highlight China's move toward a green economy and the jobs created along the way. At a time when food security is of global concern and population growth continues to stress the environment, the innovations highlighted in the report have the potential to affect the world in a positive way. The report states "One of the greatest lessons to be learned from the early days of China's green transition is that building a sustainable future requires using approaches and processes that are sustainable in practice as well." With more China-focused projects in development, including a potential sustainable agriculture strategy for the northwestern regions, China could achieve both an effective and efficient transition towards green economy.

Exploring Public-Private Partnerships: Envision Utah

Today at the US Center at COP-15, the US delegation to the conference gave a presentation on the role of public transit in reducing carbon emissions in the United States. In truth, we are far behind much of the rest of the world in our development of a sustainable eco-friendly public transportation infrastructure.  Still there are regions here in the country that have begun looking at how to best manage their area's long-term growth. Portland's success is well known but another metro area that is doing some rather interesting things is Salt Lake City and the Greater Wasatch Area.

In the presentation today, Utah Transit CEO John Inglish described how, through a participatory process called "Envision Utah," residents of Salt Lake City foresaw growth and economic development around new light rail transit lines. Envision Utah is one of these public-private partnerships that I like to tout and highlight. His presentation thus affords me the opportunity to provide a short overview of the project.

Back in the mid 1990s, demographic studies projected the region growing from 1.6 million residents in 1998 to more than 2.2 million by 2020 and more than 5 million by 2050. The project arose out of an effort to educate the public, policy-makers and other decision-makers and stakeholders about the issues and consequences associated with rapid growth in the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area.  Today, Envision Utah has become a model for regional planning in the United States.

A public-private group was formed in 1996 and a year later Envision Utah began conducting public values research, holding over 200 workshops, and listening to the concerns more than 20,000 residents in various fora between 1997 and 1999.  Out of these emerged visions of Utah developed by Utahns. The Envision Utah project included the development and modeling of four different regional growth scenarios that clearly illustrated the consequences of varying growth patterns and differentiated transportation infrastructure investments. The scenarios ranged from a low-density alternative with predominantly auto-oriented development to a high-density transit-oriented alternative with more compact growth and higher levels of infill and redevelopment. Extensive public outreach formed the foundation of a Quality Growth Strategy (QGS) for the region based on voluntary, locally-implemented, market-based solutions. The QGS was adopted by the Utah State Legislature in 1999 and it has help to inform regional and local decisions ever since.

Among the groups that came together to form this public-private partnership were Governor's Office of Utah, cities and counties along the Wasatch Front, the Utah Transit Authority, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, The Nature Conservancy, Kennecott Land Development, Economic Development Corp. of Utah, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and KSL Television in addition to thousands of citizens.  As a neutral facilitator, Envision Utah brought together residents, elected officials, developers, conservationists, business leaders, and other interested parties to make informed decisions about how the area should grow.

Most people don't think of Utah as a state with urban problems but surprisingly Utah is the nation's sixth most urban state in part because 80 percent of the population lives in the Salt Lake City metro region and as that region began to experience hyper-growth, civic leaders began to worry about the impact of unchecked and largely unplanned growth. Envision Utah used scenario analysis and public involvement to develop a strategy to help preserve critical lands, promote water conservation and clean air, improve region-wide transportation systems, and provide housing options for residents. It's a model worth studying. For a more complete history of this public-private partnership, please read Envision Utah: A Partnership for Quality Growth (pdf).

Finally, here's an interview from the Policy Consensus Initiative with Robert Grow, founder of Envision Utah. I'll add that Jon Hunstman, the former Governor of Utah and the current US Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, is a former Chair of the group. It's another reason why I think Jon Huntsman might make a formidable candidate come 2016. Then again, he may be too moderate or too progressive for the GOP.

There's more...


Bogotá, Colombia began the concept of ciclovías in the 1980s. A ciclovía consists of the temporary or permanent closure of a major street (or streets) to motorized vehicles so that people are free to use the roadway without concern for their safety. They are held every Sunday and on holidays from 7 AM to 3 PM allowing residents to enjoy the public space in a healthy and safe manner with the closing of over 110 kilometers of roads for biking and pedestrian activities. Every weekend over 2 million Santa Fereños (citizens of Bogotá) participate in the ciclovía enjoying outdoor activities. Complimenting the ciclovía is the recreovía, free exercise classes that citizens can participate in.

There's more...


Advertise Blogads