Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Yan Li - Beijing, China

Almost all of the people Climate Stories talks to are lay people with no particular interest in or knowledge about climate change. However, Yan Li, who has been working as a climate change campaigner for Greenpeace China for two years has some very important things to say about what climate change really means for China.

Yan Li says that China will be one of the countries worst affected by climate change. It's already triggered droughts in the North but flash floods and typhoons in the South. These extreme weather events are set to get much worse. Most projections now foretell a bleak water situation for China. No water means no development so it's the hottest issue.

Most people in Beijing don't realise it yet but their water supply is severely under threat right now. The reservoir that keeps the capital in fresh water is now at a quarter of its usual capacity. It used to be open to the public to visit but now people are kept away so they can't see how bad the situation has become. There's a huge contrast between the situation in the big cities in China and rural life. Yan Li illustrates this with the example of the wealthy city of Guangzhou where the people have everything they want and the surrounding countryside, where the people have no water and are very worried about their futures.

Heavy rain of 100-200mm an hour of rain is common in some of the Southern parts of the country but Xinjiang has had no rain, especially in the Gobi region. Yan met some people there who had no need for a roof on their house because it never rained. In some areas though climate change is improving people's lives. It has brought rain to previously arid areas, so more food can now be grown. Ultimately though, everyone will be worse off as the productivity of China's land declines overall.

Yan Li was disappointed when China's target to produce 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2010 was downgraded to non-fossil fuel sources. However she tells me there are other more encouraging signs that China's leaders are taking the issue seriously. Greenpeace are pushing for the environmental cost of coal to be included in coal pricing by way of a carbon tax and the government are currently holding an online debate about it.

The government are also investing in the development of the as yet mythical carbon capture and storage technology, as well as carbon labelling but Yan Li isn't convinced how effective either will be. There is apparently evidence that people here are prepared to pay more for environmental products though.

Greenpeace are currently planning a 'virtual march' through China to raise awareness of climate change. At the moment though Chinese people don't understand what civil society or campaigns really mean for them. The first NGO, an environmental education charity called Friends of Nature, was established in China only in 1994 and there are many restrictions on such organisations here. It's a big dream for her that one day there will be a big movement of people in China on environmental issues.

With water linking climate change with food security, poverty, health and development, Yan Li believes climate change should be a much bigger issue in the minds of every Chinese person. The time to think small is over.

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

  1. Climate change is a problem that we should not just set aside and act is if there will always be tomorrow. China and other countries who are affected will not only experience climate change if we do not act and change our ways.