China outsources pollution to poorer regions

China's growing wealth has produced a paradox of sorts: it now outsources carbon pollution within its own borders just as wealthier countries have done with China.

China's growing wealth has produced a paradox of sorts: it now outsources carbon pollution within its own borders just as wealthier countries have done with China.

A study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) examined how less developed regions of China are now bearing the brunt of CO2 pollution to make consumer goods for its more cosmopolitan eastern coastal region.

About 57% of CO2 emissions in poorer provinces can be attributed to the manufacturing of goods that are consumed elsewhere in the country, the study says. China's central and western provinces absorb 80% of the emissions associated with carbon goods that are consumed in its coastal areas.

"As the world's largest emitter of CO2, China is a prominent and important example, struggling to balance rapid economic growth and environmental sustainability across provinces that are in very different stages of development," the study says.

Co-author Klaus Hubacek from the University of Maryland told BBC News, "China is treating its own hinterland just the way the whole world treats China, which is outsourcing its dirty pollution to the poorer regions. Money chases the cheapest ways of producing goods around the world." China's less developed regions use low efficiency manufacturing processes that worsen pollution and many low value-added goods are the cause.

It's worth noting that China has established a carbon exchange in its central city of Wuhan. The exchange places a price on carbon that's emitted by local companies in an attempt to abate rapidly rising pollution levels. There's an incentive to pollute less. China has made commitment to a national carbon tax coming before 2015.

Some residents in eastern cities such as Beijing are already doing their part by experimenting with low carbon living with the help of a Chinese environmental NGO.

(image credits: Wikipedia Commons)

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