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Is Green GDP an Utopia in China?

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The green gross domestic  product is an index of economic growth that factors in environmental consequences. Green GDP has gained in popularity for the past 20 years around since Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It differs from the traditional GDP index in that it takes in the factors which reflects the extending environmental effects of economic growth.

Nowadays, Green GDP has been widely accepted across China in accordance with the government’s sustainable development strategy. The sustainable development put forward by Beijing symbolizes the ideas that economic develops along with the environmental refinement and it has penetrated almost all the economic sectors of China. And Green GDP works well with the developmental sustainability in its virtue. In 2006, the first reports on China’s green GDP was released. This report combined the economic data and environmental research and produced a result that “the economical losses caused by environmental pollution summed up to be 511.8 billions, a 3.4% share of the country’s GDP in 2004”. But this report was seriously challenged by the officers in Beijing due to its immaturity.

Green GDP’s second trial failed two year later before its release because of its unreal analysis. Some insiders who had viewed the report told that, the GDPs of some provinces come up with negative numbers and ‘they’ don’t plan to accept it.

Tao Ji, professor in Beijing Technology and Business University, who participated in producing the second green GDP report said, “None of the governors wants to see a negative output of their achievement for the last year, especially those who worked really hard to gain a plus on their performance”.

Besides, the accountancy of the green GDP is also controversial. When taking environmental effects into account, the statisticians must predict how the environment will be affected for some time in the future. It is a common issue because environmental pollution or improvement are difficult to foresee. “You can’t see what a battery will do to our drink water right away when you dump it into the river”, said a specialist in environmental protection. 

And some people argued that, while you see GDP as a negative impact on environment, you should also see the good sides of it. So how we calculate the positive factors brought by the added GDP when economic development favours the environment is another question that the advocates of green GDP need to answer.

Hitherto, China’s government fails to produce any convincing report of Green GDP. Part of its failure resulted from the problems above, and the rest of its reason remains invisible. China’ Green GDP is a good idea, except that it can’t be measured by current available methods.

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