China’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being undermined by increased Western-style consumption habits among the urban rich
Around 20 million people every year move from rural to urban areas in China in search of better jobs and more comfortable lifestyles.
And new research shows that this mass movement of people – part of what is the largest internal migration in human history – is not only leading to growing income inequality between the countryside and the cities, but is also threatening China’s goal of radically cutting back on its emissions of greenhouse gases.
The researchers from Austria, the US, China and the UK report in Nature Climate Change journal that the urban wealthy – making up 5% of China’s population – are responsible for generating 19% of the country’s total household carbon footprint.
The study found that as people have moved from rural to urban areas, they increasingly aspire to Westernised lifestyles that are resource and carbon-intensive.
One of the study’s author’s, Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia’s School of International Development, UK, says the growth in the carbon footprint of the urban middle class and the rich in China is a big problem that has to be tackled.
He told Climate News Network: “All these urban newly wealthy – not only in China, but also in India and elsewhere – want to drive 4x4s and own big houses.
“That’s very dangerous. We would need the resources of three more planets like Earth in…