Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Watch this space
This morning's papers carry a fascinating story: a senior Chinese official has suggested that the people who benefit from its ultra-cheap factories and lack of environmental protection (ie, Western countries) should be held responsible for the pollution they leave behind. Li Gao, director of China's Department of Climate Change, said at conference sponsored by the Pew Center for Global Climate Change: "About 15 percent to 25 percent of China's emissions come from the products which we make for the world, which should not be taken by us." I have to admit that I am so out of the China-climate change debate that I didn't even know China had a Department of Climate Change, and I have never heard of Li Gao, but it's an interesting remark. Negotiators are grumbling that this is unworkable, a "logistical nightmare", but China has a point. That said, it's also interesting because it comes at a time when Pan Yue, the country's most outspoken environmental champion, has reportedly been pushed aside in favor of Beijing's push for growth. The China Environmental Law Blog, a much better authority on this issue than I, has an intelligent post on this issue here, echoing the view that the proposal is impractical, certainly not ahead of the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December. To me, the larger question is: is this a line of argument that China is going to take in other areas? For example, it might say, Western countries, you accuse us of labor and human rights violations? Let's have a look at how your country's factories, or the factories that supply your retailers, are treating their employees in China, and then let's talk.