Environmental injustice

By Yin Xing
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Pictorial, September 28, 2014
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Global Foul Play

The same environmental unfairness also exists between developing and developed countries. The population of developed countries accounts for 14 percent of the world's population but consumes 80 percent of global commercial energy. In 1992, to bridge the gap, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio proposed that developed countries commit 0.7 percent of their GDP to aiding developing countries and transfer their environmental technology for free. Except for a few nations in northern Europe, most developed nations failed to keep the promise. Also, owners of new energy technologies are reluctant to transfer them to developing countries in the name of intellectual property protection.

Actually, one of the most important contributors to Western clean air in the West is carbon transfer to developing countries. Developed countries keep research centers in their homelands but move energy-consuming and heavy-polluting industries to developing countries.

As the largest developing country and an industrial exporter, China and its comparatively cheaper labor costs, is no doubt one victim, becoming the manufacturing base for many international companies. For instance, many smartphone producers choose China for labor-intensive, low-end, heavy-polluting manufacturing but keep high-end departments such as design and sales, which don't pollute but make money in their own country. As early as 2011, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based NGO, revealed that at least 27 suspected Apple suppliers in China were causing major environmental problems and endangering public health.

"We know that pollution is emanating from China and is reaching our West Coast," remarked Gina McCarthy, head of the U.S.'s Environmental Protection Agency in late 2013. In The Huffington Post, she also noted, "The threats of air pollution and climate change don't respect international boundaries. We face them together; we must find a way to fight them together." South Korea and Japan have complained that China is hurting their air quality many times. "About millionth of China's pollution reaches the U.S.," notes Guan Dabo, Associate Professor in Environmental Economics in University of Leeds. "But over half of labor-intensive daily necessities and industrial consumables used by the U.S. and other developed countries are provided by China. In 2010, primary PM2.5 pollutants emitted by export production reached two million tons, accounting for one quarter of China's total primary PM2.5 pollution. More than 60 percent of those commodities were exported to the U.S. and other developed countries." Guan believes that not only is China's development to blame for the situation, but that global consumption, especially in developed countries, is accelerating China's environmental deterioration.

Sharing the same planet and its finite resources, those from various regions and countries must accept the responsibilities together or the situation won't improve. Only environmental justice can guarantee better protection.

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