Sempre di più, nei prossimi mesi, il mondo si concentrerà sui cambiamenti climatici che stanno avvenendo, ma una intesa su questo tema può essere raggiunta. Il discorso sul cambiamento climatico terrestre deve essere preso in considerazione. Le nuove proiezioni del (MIT) Massachuttes Institute of Technology, Usa, affermano che il riscaldamento globale avrà effetti molto più gravi delle precedenti previsioni. Nonostante le promesse della Cina, vi sono continue rivolte popolari contro l’inquinamento. La stazione indipendente BeijingAir ha riportato un air pollution index di 500 a giugno di quest’anno e le autorità hanno rimosso Pan Yue, il precedente portavoce del Ministero dell’ambiente, perchè un fautore della lotta all’inquinamento.
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Increasingly in the coming months, the world will become singularly focused on whether an effective global climate change agreement can be realized.
The need to address climate change is all too apparent. New projections from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study published in May of this year warn that global warming will be twice as severe as previous estimates. The projections signal a 90% probability that worldwide surface temperatures will rise more than 9 degrees F by 2100.
The responsibility of world leaders to meet this challenge cannot be overstated. Yet, officials should not be expected to solve a global problem alone. Conversely, world leaders must also actively rely on citizens and engage in dialogue that acknowledges and explores the vital role they have to play.
Indeed, a major key to this challenge is in the local force, whose own experience, capabilities and ingenuity must not be neglected or suppressed. This requires an atmosphere in which civic assertion is not coupled with personal risk. The synergetic relationship required to address climate change –between all actors within society– is one in which everyone is motivated and encouraged to actively shape their collective future.
The Chinese government has acknowledged the role civic actors have to play in its 2008 white paper, “China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change.” One of its five main principals is “reliance on mass participation,” or the need for the participation of the whole society. Publicity through mass media, school education, forums and trainings are the methods advanced to reach this goal.
While China has implemented a number of programs as part of this holistic effort, recent events suggest there have also been departures from this core principal. These significant divergences indicate China is not meeting its goal of relying on the public and is instead moving in another direction.
These departures include: suppression of human rights defenders, inaccurate and incomplete public reporting of the environmental situation, limiting the operations of environmental NGOS, and the recent sidelining of China’s most outspoken official advocate of environmental protection, Pan Yue.
Necessary in ensuring that citizens are able to maximize their potential is full access to information. Only when citizens can thoroughly understand the problem, can they move forward in the co-determination of a sound solution.
In January 2008, all media coverage of protests in the People’s Square in Shanghai, over the proposed construction of a train, was banned. Such protests –in this case incited by fears of radiation poisoning– have become so widespread that as of 2007 they are no longer reported by the Environmental Ministry.
In regards to information on environment and health, data must be made more widely available. This includes pollution-death estimates. There is also urgent need for a new air pollution index with real-time data and more stringent targets. Ozone data once made public is now collected and kept secret and small particulate matter is excluded entirely. In June of this year, the independent monitoring station BeijingAir reported a peak in the pollution index over 500: the highest limit on the scale. Yet, official data reported 104, or only 4 points over a “blue-sky day.”
Regrettably, the official who has demonstrated the strongest will to publicize such information has been sidelined. Pan Yue, the number 2 official of the Environmental Ministry, has been the most outspoken public advocate of China’s environmental movement. He led public campaigns to blacklist polluters and introduced a freedom of information law. He also successfully blocked billions of dollars worth of projects and encouraged members of civil society to become more actively involved.
Mr. Pan has lost authority over environmental impact assessment approvals: his removal in 2008 as environmental spokesman meant he could no longer block projects that cause pollution, hurt biodiversity or waste energy. His “Green GDP” project has been shelved. In 2007 he was passed over for promotion at the party congress and has since been steadily moved to a quieter role: today he is responsible for environmental education and “green economy.” Simultaneous with Mr. Pan’s nudge to the side, the Environmental Ministry –citing the priority of fighting the economic downturn– adopted a new “green passage” policy to hasten the approval of industrial projects.
China’s leadership must gain a new confidence in the capabilities of its citizens. New forms of collaboration and partnership are needed to better distribute the responsibility of addressing climate change and environmental protection. Moreover, a more equitable relationship is vital to creating an atmosphere in which the government may work more effectively in terms of accountability and performance.
China’s leadership must not limit itself to a top-down approach to solving climate change. Co-operation must be multi-layered and porous. With an openness, tolerance and respect –as well as the deep conviction all actors must be fully engaged– the collaboration necessary to tackle climate change can be realized.
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