Fri, 22 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], June 6 (ANI): China consumes at least one-fifth of the world's plastics, it is also the single largest producer and exporter of single-use and virgin plastics (new plastics made without any recycled materials).

The country is also by far the largest source of mismanaged plastic waste and is the biggest offender of ocean plastic pollution.

In addition to this, the US State Department in its reports states that China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases; the largest source of marine debris; the worst perpetrator of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and the world's largest consumer of trafficked wildlife and timber products.

While many multinationals assume they comprehend, and have tried to mitigate, the serious risks posed by operating in China, intellectual-property-rights violations, corruption, lack of transparency, potential political instability, and one of the highest risks of all, environmental degradation (due to Chinese activities), is hardly discussed in corporate boardrooms.

Despite claims of international environmental leadership, China's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising. It has been the world's largest annual greenhouse gas emitter since 2006.

China's unsafe industrial processes also make it the world's greatest emitter of mercury, a neurotoxin, and a major public health threat when allowed to pollute the air, water, and soil.

China leads the world in mercury air pollution from its own coal-burning power plants, as well as the plants that Chinese state-owned companies finance, build, and operate in other countries.

China is the biggest producer and exporter of plastic products, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the world's total. A 2019 comprehensive literature review by Tianjin University estimates China is the world's leading generator of plastic waste.

At least 13 per cent of China's domestic plastic waste is unmanaged and released or dumped directly into the environment as pollution, translating into millions of tons per year.

Amidst the scam of plastic usage, a recent report by Tibet Rights Collective, claims that China is stealing Tibet's groundwater and selling (earlier available for free) it back to Tibetans in plastic bottles.

It may be said that China has reduced the status of the once-proud and self-sustaining nomads of Tibet to beggars. It has forcefully removed from their traditional grazing lands to make way for so-called 'nature reserves' and now, the nomads are reliant on the Chinese government's meagre subsidies.

Except for the tea, all of these were available for free to nomad yak herders. They would camp near rivers, lakes or other water sources to fetch their own water. Now they are reduced to buying water that Chinese entrepreneurs are bottling by tapping into Tibet's abundant groundwater and spring water.

Tibet's immense reserves of groundwater were never exploited until the Chinese invasion of Tibet. And not on any scale until 2006, with the arrival of the railway from Golmud to Lhasa.

The railway link makes the export of Tibet's bottled water to Shanghai and Beijing economical-and highly lucrative trade. By 2025, China targets to produce 10 million tonnes of bottled water, an exponential increase and thereby an eco-disaster in the making for Tibet.

China has separately put in place mechanisms to exploit water from the rivers flowing through Tibet, at the cost of severely impacting water availability to the Tibetan people. Diversion of the course of rivers for exploitation has been a regular practice in China.

One could argue that the water from the holy Ganges is also sold in India, mostly by Hindu believers, but it is important for the global audience to understand that water collected from Gangotri (the origin point of river Ganga) is an inaccessible area for the elderly and hence the National Postal System in India makes it available at a subsidised rate (charging only for the transport and packaging) to respect religious sentiments. At the same time, the collection of water causes no adverse effect on the ecosystem.

Moreover, there are efforts made consistently by various conscientious Indian organisations/NGOs to build awareness about the relevance of a clean and plastic-free Ganges.

In this connection, the Centre to Global Affairs and Public Policy (CGAPP) is launching a project - "tackling Plastic Pollution in the Ganga Basin" to address the problem of plastic waste in the Ganga Basin.

The objective would be to build awareness against plastic pollution causing long-term damage to our environment and aquatic systems. The project would involve a 220 km river expedition from Prayagraj to Varanasi leading to Sunderbans in Bangladesh. Teams from India and Bangladesh would participate in this campaign.

Meanwhile, internationally, China is the largest financier of fossil fuel infrastructure. Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has built or is planning to build hundreds of coal-fired power plants in countries around the world.

More than 60 per cent of BRI-specific energy financing has gone toward non-renewable resources. Greenhouse gas emissions in more than a dozen BRI countries have soared.

Researchers found in 2019 that BRI could drive the global average temperature to increase by 2.7C, significantly higher than the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C.

Like the rest of the world, China will increasingly suffer over the next few decades from the effects of climate change, which include sea-level rise, stronger storms, and more intense heat waves.

China's average temperature and sea levels have risen faster than the global average, according to a 2020 report from China's National Climate Centre. Some of China's coastal cities, such as Shanghai, could be submerged if the global average temperature continues to rise.

Despite Beijing's pledges to address climate change, transitioning from coal to renewable energy is critical to China's efforts. For several years, China resisted making commitments under the UN framework.

Chinese diplomats argued that China shouldn't have to sacrifice its economic development for environmental protection blaming developed countries like the US.

It is only in the recent decade that China has felt the impact of how environmental degradation is a non-traditional threat that has no respect for sovereign territories but for the entire globe.

Air pollution, desertification, nuclear waste and water insecurity among others are some major challenges that China is still grappling with.

The awareness is still low with even more increasing global issues. It is the moral responsibility of leading global powers to force China to change its planning and approach for the planet to sustain itself.

China would have to deal with climate change issues more meticulously and not make climate a politically non-negotiable pillar of long team policy making.

China's unusually long-drawn targets for achieving climate change results have also been a serious challenge for the global community to deal with. (ANI)

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