Climate: Determination seen as key driver of rapid green transition
Erik Solheim, a former chief of the United Nations Environment Programme, said it is absurd that some Western media criticize China for not contributing its fair share to the global fight against climate change.
"I think it is completely crazy that Western media are running around looking for everything that can be criticized about China," said Solheim.
"The historical per capita carbon emissions of the United States are eight times that of China, and 25 times that of India. But Western media criticize China and India as if they were to blame for carbon emissions," said Solheim in an exclusive interview with China Daily, citing numbers released by United Kingdom-based website Carbon Brief.
He dismissed some media outlets' claims that China is not doing enough to fight climate change.
Solheim said he believed that China is now a world leader in green transition, such as in the application of renewable energy and electric cars.
"Last year, 82 percent of all solar panels were made in China, and 80 percent of the world's new hydropower capacity installed in 2021 was in China, and 98 percent of the world's electric buses are running on Chinese roads," said Solheim, who is also a former UN under-secretary-general.
"China is acting much more determinedly than any other country" in terms of pushing ahead with low-carbon development, he said.
"The complete focus of economic growth in the early days of Chinese modernization has been replaced by a focus on sustainable development," he added.
Speaking of China's progress in the environmental field in recent years, Solheim said the speed at which China improved its environment impressed him the most, citing the example of tackling air pollution.
China has reduced air pollution at a speed and scale that has never been seen in any other country, he said.
"Fifteen years ago, Beijing was one of the most polluted cities in the entire world, and now it's a very clean city," he said.
According to a report published in January by the city's ecology and environment bureau, during the past decade the average concentration of PM2.5 — particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less — in the Chinese capital dropped from 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013 to 30 mg per cubic meter in 2022, a reduction of nearly 70 percent.
In addition to speed, the Norwegian also pointed to determination as a key driver behind China's rapid green transition. "It was started with a very, very strong determination, which came from not just from the top, but also from the people."
In recent years, China rolled out resolute measures such as vigorously promoting the use of clean energy and developing public transportation, he added.
Now Beijing has the world's largest metro system, and all major cities in China have metro lines, which provide for much better air quality than gasoline-run cars, he said.