Singapore: Asian business and government leaders on 25 June accused rich countries of hypocrisy, saying they run polluting industries with cheap labouir in China and then blame the country for worsening global warming and climate change.
“This is green imperialism,” Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Malaysia’s deputy finance minister, told a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, a two-day conference.
A Chinese aviation tycoon told the discussion that the West was the original polluter, while an American businessman noted that Asia’s energy consumption is relatively disproportionate to its contribution to the world economy. But all participants agreed that instead of fixing blame, the problem should be solved internationally and with private sector participation.
The US and Australia were also criticized for not signing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which caps the amount of carbon dioxide and other climate change-inducing greenhouse gases that can be emitted in industrialized countries.
China is a signatory but because it is considered a developing country it is exempted from emission reductions a situation often cited by Washington and Canberra for not accepting the treaty.
Nor Mohamed said sustainable growth or economic development with limited harm to the environment is important, but “there is no point in singling out” one country when it is a global problem.
“Companies that are polluting in China are owned by American, European, Japanese and others. They are benefiting from the cheap labour, from the resources and at the same time accusing China of pollution,” said Nor Mohamed.
“There should be no hypocrisy. Let’s take the hypocrisy out of the equation,” he said. “Treat it as a global problem ... the world has to play a role rather than take the issue in a very adversarial or biased basis.”
In 2006, China overtook the US in carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.5%, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency’s report last week. While China was 2% below the US in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the agency said.
China also uses other statistics to contend that it is not the worst offender: with a population of 1.3 billion people, China spews about 10,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per person, while in the US releases nearly 42,500 pounds per person.
Chen Feng, the chairman of China Hainan Airlines, said “now is not the time” to fix blame but to create an international solution, noting that the West was the original polluter when its industries were ruining the environment 100 years ago.
“So the way I see it is, you (the West) were robbers and bandits before you became right-minded people,” he told the discussion
Ralph R.Peterson, the chairman of a US management, design and construction firm, said Asia’s economic growth path appears unsustainable because of high and inefficient energy consumption that contributed to pollution.
He said Southeast Asian nations produce 11% of global output and use 21% of world oil. China’s output is 5.5% of world gross domestic product while it uses 15% of global energy. India’s energy efficiency is one tenth of global average while China’s water use per unit of GDP is four times the world’s average.
“If it takes much more energy to produce one unit of GDP in Asia, then we have a problem,” he said.