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Anita Jesan, a friend and Margaret Wise enjoy Hangzhou City’s West Lake. The tourism city has closed down factories causing too much pollution. Picture PITA LIGAIULA
FROM Beijing in the north to Hangzhou in the southeast, we heard of ambitious carbon reduction plans and policies that have cut energy use in most municipalities ù the figures eagerly released by city officials keen to highlight China’s efforts in coping with climate change.
If the figures are anything to go by, then it can be safely assumed that more and more of this country’s 1.3 billion residents are beginning to realise that China will affect climate change and climate change will affect China.
As municipal officials flaunted figures of reduced energy bills and exuded pride at having surpassed reduction targets set by the central government, it brought to mind the persistent problem of littering in our very own country. Earlier this year a Nadi-based Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) official engaged in the 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) waste minimisation project publicly raised concern about the attitude of the Fiji public. According to her, the biggest headache for the project launched in 2008 was public commitment to solid waste management and the lack of understanding or care to the negative impact on national development activities and tourism.
China is right up there with the United States as one of the biggest emitters but it will also be one of the most vulnerable because of the impact climate change will have on food security.
According to officials of the municipalities visited, the secret to massive savings in energy consumption was embedded in a cooperative public. They have found that nothing was more effective than engaging the participation of citizens and that included both business organisations and residents.
A synopsis of key policies and strategies espoused by the officials showed they are executed in a manner that ensured the involvement of the public.
In Hangzhou where 8 million people reside, city vice mayor Shen Jian said they took their instructions on emission reduction and energy savings from the central government.
“We then take that figure and allocate or share them between the different districts. These districts then engage their village or community and break down or share the target percentage given to them. These villages and communities then break it down further to the businesses and individual residents on what their target should be, a shared responsibility,” he said.
“We then monitor their progress because the focus is to achieve the target set by the central government and the mayor is directly involved in this special working team.”
Like the capital, Hangzhou also has laws and regulations on energy saving and emission reduction, focus on development of new technology and clean energy, and a continuing awareness program.
According to Mr Shen, Hangzhou closed 150 cement factories and 230 industrial furnaces over the past 5 years because of “too much pollution”.
“Industries using too much energy were shut down. We promote new products, last year we promoted the use of 57 million energy efficient lamps and we got cement factories to use the heat produced to generate electricity. For companies that ignore our requests, we blacklist them and they are dealt with legally. There are a lot of educational programs going on for business and residents because the biggest challenge is the enterprises lack of understanding or ignorance of environmental issues.”
In Beijing, Zhang Yumei, a director of the municipality’s Development and Reform Commission, said public support for climate change initiatives was crucial.
“Without public support we achieve nothing. Every June, the second Saturday is set aside as energy savings week where awareness on consumer goods takes place, a day for schoolchildren, an office day, community day and international day. Everyone is engaged,” she said.
She added that more than 100 small factories, deemed high energy consumers have been shut down, 175 new technology developed and a reduction in the use of coal, replaced by renewable energy like wind power.
“We also have the energy saving law like the tourism industry initiatives where lowest temperature in hotels is limited to 26 degrees in summer. This is monitored and in the winter indoor temperature is limited to 20 degrees. We also have water tariffs, where the per capita consumption process is being developed.”
Both cities reported that the public was responding positively to the introduction of low consumption lights, electric scooters and bicycles, solar boilers and heating installation and the smart fridge for energy saving.
The city officials said through effective public education and awareness programs and initiatives the Chinese public is realising that climate change is a common threat and it was crucial that individuals take responsibility.
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