U.N.:World can't afford rich China
Demand for goods from 1.3 billion people could soon deplete resources, a U.N.
China's ambitious economic growth plans are
environmentally unachievable because the world does not have enough resources to
allow its 1.3 billion people to become Western-style consumers, a U.N. official
Klaus Toepfer, head of the U.N. Environment Program, said China's aim of
quadrupling its economy by 2020 can only occur if developed nations radically
change their consumption habits to free up scarce resources for the world's
"Quadrupling the GDP of a country of 1.3 billion, can you imagine what are the
consequences if you go in the same structure as was done in the so-called
developed countries?" Toepfer told reporters during a visit to Sydney Wednesday.
He said that if China had the same density of private cars as, for example
Germany, it would have to produce 650 million vehicles -- a target that
environmentalists say the world's supply of metal and oil would be unable to
"It's not a question whether you are devoted to nature or whether this is an
emotional topic. This is the rationality of economics," Toepfer said.
China's gross domestic product, or GDP, grew eight percent last year and the
government expects it to expand another seven percent in 2003.
Toepfer was in Australia to attend a conference of young environmentalists from
Asia, discussing ways of changing consumer habits so that precious resources
such as water are conserved.
He said the world's approach to resource use was going through a significant
phase with slow economic growth persuading governments in Europe and North
America to aggressively try to stimulate consumption.
While senior Chinese officials appeared to be fully aware of the constraints the
environment placed on their economic plans, Toepfer said more work needed to be
done in developed nations to make environmentally friendly products "trendy" and
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