«Blue APEC skies» is a Chinese language neologism that came into being during the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November. Those days the Beijing’s air was free of smog as a result of strict administrative measures taken by authorities. Hundreds of coal-consuming industrial enterprises and construction sites in the province of province Hebei, that Beijing has been carved out from, suspended their activities. One of the measures was the restriction on the movement of private cars through an odd-even number plate ban. That meant that only cars with odd number plates were permitted to drive on the odd number dates, while those with even plates were allowed on the even dates.
The result confirmed the Chinese scholars’ hypothesis about the origin of smog that shrouds many Chines cities – a real scourge hitting the country. It has three key components: sulphur dioxide produced by burning coal, vehicular emission and dry air. The temporarily introduced air cleaning measures clearly showed that the country has a real chance to drastically improve its ecological situation. If not immediately, it can be done in a more distant future.
In 2013 Beijing defined the goal to be reached by Hebei authorities – to reduce the production of steal and cement (by 60 million tons each) and cut down on the consumption of coal by 40 million tons. There is already a tangible result achieved: in three quarters of the year PM2.5 or micro particles in the air have been reduced by 12, 5% in comparison with the previous year, the number of «ecologically bad days» has been somewhat reduced in the cities of the region. At the summit China declared its commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions till 2030. By this time Beijing plans to increase the share of renewable energy sources up to 20% of total consumption. The goal could be reached sooner than planned. The China’s economy has grown mature. An ecological revolution normally takes place at the final stages of industrial and consumption revolutions. 5 trillion yuan (over $ 800 billion) were allocated for ecology protection according to the current five year plan (2011-2015) or two and a half times more than in 2011.
Overdependence on coal is the main problem for China’s economy and ecology. It gets exacerbated by the fact that technologically obsolete enterprises account for around 20% of coal production. The government is adamant to unswervingly continue the policy aimed at reducing the dependence. In the autumn of 2013 it ordered to close the coal mines producing less than 90 tons a year. Only mines with planned production exceeding 300 thousand tons will be given licenses. (1)
20% is impressive enough in relation to the overall coal consumption in China (over 3, 6 billion a year). How rapidly could it be replaced with renewed energy sources? What exactly will be used instead of coal? In 2013 the coal production in China grew only by 0, 8% while the consumption increased by 3, 7%.
Energy consumption is a global burning problem which is especially important for renewed energy and industrial cleaning equipment production.
China has learned to use desulphurization systems at thermal power stations. Now foreign systems are two and a half times more expensive than the Chines ones. The same happened with photovoltaic panels. The Chinese production made prices fall down while the countries that take a strong stand in favor of environmental protection have banned the import of Chinese photovoltaic panels.
According to preliminary data, coal production in China may go down in 2014 – the first time in many years. It testifies to the fact that the government takes resolute steps on the way to reduce the coal dependence.
The battle for eco-friendly China will be in focus of the fifth generation of Chinese leaders. Like legendary Shun who changed the whole landscape of the country, (2) the members of incumbent government can make their names go down in history written in green hieroglyphs.
While green modernization takes place inside China the government launches a vibrant diplomatic offensive aimed at efficient resolution of global problems related to climate change. This policy has broad support in Europe. American climatologist John Abraham skillfully described in the Guardian the successes of Chinese ecologists and the wide support they enjoy from the government. He believes that China will turn into a world scientific research center achieving new successes in other areas too. (3)
The US Republicans begin to get exasperated by China’s successes. It’s not only the desire to attack Democrats on a major issue. The shale revolution that boosts the US economy is too unstable because of ecological problems, something they don’t like to talk about in America. Are they afraid of Greenpeace?