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Nation Must Embrace Green Games Message

Updated on Jul 31, 2008 – SCMP

I am sure China will shine when it takes to the world stage with next month’s Olympic Games.

However, while China is flying high, we should not forget that 25 per cent of people on the mainland drink unhygienic water, one third of people living in cities breathe hazardous air, and 70 per cent of cancer deaths are related to environmental pollution. This undermines people’s lives and state stability. It will be a tough challenge to take the concept of a green Olympics beyond the Games.

The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Bocog) made 20 promises on the environment. Some such as construction of a public transport network and sewage management system have already been accomplished with targets exceeded. Nonetheless there is still room for improvement in Beijing.

For instance, although Bocog formulated a set of compliance guides on building materials for the construction of Olympics venues, companies submitting tenders were not obliged to comply with these terms, so some building materials are likely to be environmentally unfriendly.

The lack of information from Bocog makes it difficult for green groups to examine the green works of the Games. Although the Olympics has encouraged measures such as energy-saving technology and a better public transport network, we still do not know if total greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced. If it can be shown these measures have worked they can be more effectively promoted nationwide.

Beijing’s air quality should give grave cause for concern. It is undeniably worse than other international cities.

Between 2000 and 2006, Beijing’s domestic productivity increased by 144 per cent and the number of vehicles rose by 91 per cent. Yet total emissions of air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide have both been reduced by more than 10 per cent. This reflects the efforts of Bocog and the Beijing government. Non-governmental organisations have offered green solutions to Bocog. For example, Greenpeace successfully lobbied Coca-Cola to commit to climate-friendly coolers and vending machines in all official venues in Beijing and six other co-host cities including Hong Kong. These green units feature hydro fluorocarbon (HFC)-free insulation and HFC-free natural refrigerant. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases.

It is important to ensure the series of environmental policies is sustained and further developed beyond the Olympics and to extend them to the more environmentally challenged regions in China.

Edward Chan, Greenpeace campaign manager

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