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Environment Should be Priority in China’s Urbanisation Spree

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 8 2014 (IPS) - Environment should be among the top issues to be addressed by China in its urbanisation spree to ensure sustainable development, according to panelists at a discussion here Tuesday.

“I deeply hope that carbon capture and sequestration can work at a significant scale and this would be the number one option for China, because it’s a coal-based economy,” Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Millennial Development Goals, told the audience at a discussion on China’s initiatives on city development.

“This is the time for sustainable development within China and globally.”

Coal accounts for about 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption, according to the World Bank. The country is also the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, with half of the global consumption of the fossil fuel.

Urbanisation has taken place swiftly in China in the past 30 years following economic expansion. As of 2012, around 52.6 percent of the country’s population lived in urban areas, a jump from 36 percent in the early 2000s.

China said it expects the urbanisation ratio to reach 60 percent by 2020, meaning around 800 million people will be living in cities.

China’s urbanisation, which is the swiftest and largest in human history, has placed the country in the face of various issues, including the misuse of land, hardships of migrant workers, environmental issues.

Pollution in China’s cities is a popular topic in media coverage. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) has also warned the country about health issues as a result of heavy air pollution, with hundreds of thousands of people being affected.

China said it has adopted a plan to deal with the issues arising from its urbanisation process, in which it aims to seek new ways to ensure sustainable development.

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