Lecture 7: China’s green transition towards sustainability


Professor Zhu Dajian
Prepared by Anusheema Chakraborty, TERI Universityersity

Why? What? How? Starting with these three basic questions that need to be answered at this very stage of China’s developing economy, Professor Zhu mentioned that China’s economy has drastically changed over the past few decades, increasing the GDP per capita and taxes, introducing market-based instruments and recent technological advancements. The increasing population in China has led to large-scale migration from rural to urban areas. This pattern of economic growth should be environment-friendly for sustainably developing China’s green economy. Professor Zhu gave his insights on the comparative basis for assessing GDPs among rural and urban population. His lecture was based on the theme of the IPAT equation, which is although phrased mathematically, a simple conceptual expression of the factors that create environmental impacts. IPAT is sometimes written as I = PAT or I = P x A x T, that expresses the idea that environmental impact (I) is the product of three factors: Population (P), Affluence (A) and Technology (T). Professor Zhu demonstrated the use of IPAT by many scholars, in both the social and natural sciences, as a starting point for investigating interactions of population, economic growth, and technological change. China’s growth towards sustainable development can be achieved if a balance can be created between the two concepts: (i) sustainable (environmental friendly) and (ii) development (reducing poverty). Professor Zhu explained China’s green transition towards sustainability by quoting many examples such as the need to decouple development with resources consumption and environmental impacts. The three curves of sustainability: (i) quality of life, (ii) economic growth, and (ii) use of nature, has to be completely understood, in order to fully comprehend the concept of sustainability. His views on urbanization demonstrate growth patterns as a sprawling curve within city centres. The paradox of models to be used for urban growth monitoring is very complicated. The intricacy among each system makes the formulation of urban growth policies all the more difficult. Professor Zhu concluded his talk by saying that bottom-up approach for China’s growth strategy might not always work, and a multi-sectoral approach is required to sustainably develop China’s green economy.