Did Beijing meet its Olympic green promises?
"We are glad to see that Beijing has improved its infrastructure in its preparation for the Olympics. It has made public transport more convenient, upgraded home heating methods, improved water treatment and, to some degree, reduced its reliance on fossil fuels," Greenpeace China's Campaign Director, Lo Sze Ping, said at today's press conference to launch the report China after the Olympics: Lessons from Beijing.
In the report, Greenpeace acknowledges Beijing's increased use of energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy. Examples include the use of geothermal heating systems and the introduction of wind and solar power. Beijing has expanded its public transportation system by adding five new urban railways and raised its emission standard for new vehicles to EURO IV, one of the most stringent in the world.
"This is a huge leap from the polluting technologies currently used in the developing world. Beijing has shown that, when a concerted effort is made, change is possible," Lo continued.
However, in many areas, Beijing failed to take the opportunity of the Olympics to adopt the world's best environmental practices, such as clean production, zero-waste policy, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and comprehensive water conservation policies.
Greenpeace is also disappointed that the various environmental initiatives put forth by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) were not binding. "It is crucial that the International Olympic Committee requires host cities to set comparable and mandatory environmental standards, thereby ensuring that environment is honored as the third pillar of the Olympics, after sports and culture," Lo said.
Lastly, Lo urged Beijing and all other Chinese cities to reverse the current growth model of "develop first and clean up later" that China has been pursuing in the past thirty years. "It is easy to pollute but much harder to clean up the damage. Air quality in Beijing is such an example. Despite the series of long- and short-term plans by Beijing, air pollution remains one of the toughest challenges for the city."
Due to the current rate of urbanization and economic growth powered mainly by fossil fuels, more Chinese cities are likely undergoing similar economic and environmental transformations. "Beijing has come a long way. We hope that Beijing's environmental initiatives to improve air quality and to speed up the development of renewable energy can serve as an example for other Chinese cities. The lessons learned in the Beijing Olympics are vital for China to move towards sustainable development beyond 2008," Lo concluded.
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