China will soon overtake the U.S. as the planet's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. It's a country where hundreds of millions still lack access to clean drinking water. And it's a country on the verge of hosting its first Olympic games where TV watchers around the world may see some of the smoggiest air imaginable. In order to clean up its environment and its image, the government imposed new "green GDP" measurements for its provinces to report that included estimates of damage that industrial growth is doing to the environment.
Well, it seems that there's now some pullback on that effort as advocates of growth have managed to remove the environmental aspect from required reporting.
The swift demise of China's green GDP figures highlights a growing policy conflict between advocates of environmental protection and officials long used to pursuing economic growth at all costs.The Reuters story does not mention the current extreme weather events that have brought flooding, drought, killer lightning and desertification to the country.
"Green tightening" is the latest buzz phrase in China. Hardly a day goes by without the administration tweaking taxes or promulgating orders to crack down on industries that guzzle energy or belch pollution.
But official enthusiasm has its bounds. Last month, statistics chief Xie Fuzhan said China was indefinitely halting, after just one year, publication of its estimates of the damage that China's double-digit GDP growth is doing to the environment.