ECO China in eyes of a hutong resident

Added On March 3, 2018

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last year set new targets for environmental protection.
At the annual provincial legislative sessions, environmental issues remained high on the agenda. 
But to what extent did environmental protection take effect? What kind of changes came about? Let’s take a look with our CNC correspondent in Beijing …
"Here in Beijing, after five years of fighting air pollution, residents are finally breathing noticeably cleaner air. This year in particular saw bluer skies and fewer warnings. But how did this improvement come about? I’m on a mission to find out and have to come to the hutongs in central Beijing to start looking."
Hutongs are small alleyways running between traditional courtyard residences. As many were built hundreds of years ago, they often lack modern facilities. Without even basic access to central heating in winter, residents often had to rely on burning coal as the only way to stay warm.
Laurence Brahm comes from the U.S. He has been living in Beijing’s hutongs for over 20 years. Just like his Hutong neighbors, Brahm used to burn coal during the winter to keep warm.
This is exactly what we use, way back in the eighties and nineties, to heat this courtyard with. It gave off a lot of heat but there's a cost to that efficiency, and that was the pollution.
Beijing's municipal government started its coal-to-electricity and coal-to-gas conversion in traditional houses in 2003. 
The policy was also put into place other northern provinces, including Hebei, Henan, and Shandong. 
By the end of 2017, over 4.7 million households in the 28 cities had completed coal-to-gas or coal-to-electricity conversion.
"In the past, we all used the old coal burning furnaces, I was always choked by the smog. Three years ago, we shifted into electric heating. It's convenient and easy. In the past, we need to take care of the coal-boilers every morning and evening, now we just need to enjoy."
In 2013, the state council unveiled a national five-year clean air action plan, and introduced ten measures to combat air pollution. By 2017, 338 Chinese cities had seen a combined 20.4 percent reduction in PM 10 compared to 2013. 
A change in the public attitude and increased governmental efforts have made these improvements possible. And China is now pushing for the development of an ecological civilization. 
Brahm is also a supporter of the idea. He is a senior consultant for Ministry of Environment Protection and contributed to the draft of Ecological Civilization Policy from 2013 to 2015. 
"It is China's own term for sustainable development but it's a bit different because China in evolving the policy of ecological civilization was not just determining a set of principles for sustainable development but really an action plan, a blueprint or you can call it a green print for the conversion on a massive scale of fossil fuels to renewable and green energy."
China is making ecological civilization part of its five-sphere integrated plan, which is an important step in its policy of creating a so-called "beautiful China". It also suggest the Chinese economy is moving from a phase of rapid growth to one of high-quality development.
"Another aspect of the ecological civilization is rethinking growth, so you hear a lot now in the leadership dialogue about, rebalancing growth or more inclusive growth or more green growth, ecological growth. These terms are being used more frequently, but what it really means, is balancing the industrial output which is the main factor behind GDP with other factors."
At the 19th CPC National Congress "Ecological Civilization" was made part of the Party Constitution, and Brahm thinks the model is one that could inspire other countries all over the world.
"If you add to it the Belt and Road policy of then China's infrastructure reaching out to underdeveloped areas in south central Asia southeast Asia Africa and you look at like the continent of Africa where sixty percent of the people at night have no electricity at all and you think about the infrastructure that would go in then as clean infrastructure wow it's a transformation. What china is doing is sharing its technology and its infrastructure as china itself makes this massive transition toward green infrastructure."
Brahm, and others like him, have seen China's energy revolution over the past few years. 
Behind the transition from traditional to new energy is an eco-friendly environmental purpose. The efforts are all supported by clean energy  technology. 
The visible improvement and benefit of using new energy could not be made a reality without a supporting policy from government.
Following the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held last 0ctober, Beijing plans to invest over 10.6 billion dollars( 67 billion yuan )in environmental protection this year.
The environmental protection is aimed at areas such as air pollution, water and soil improvement, and integrated garbage treatment.
More than  3 billion dollars (19 billion yuan )will be spent on controlling pollution from  coal, vehicles and dust, and to support projects in rural areas that replace coal with clean energy.
According to the report delivered at the Congress, China will adopt a holistic approach to preserving its natural landscapes.
"China is now implementing rigorous systems for environmental protection, 
and developing eco-friendly growth models and standards of living. And these new environmental protection measures are expected to benefit more people in China-and their neighbours-over the coming years."