"I AM ALWAYS MORE INTERESTED IN WHAT I AM ABOUT TO DO THAN
IN WHAT I HAVE ALREADY DONE"
(Rachel Carson, the Silent Spring)
"WHEN A WISE MAN POINTS AT THE MOON THE IMBECILE EXAMINES
Dome released on Sunday by the Chinese journalist Chai Jing
about China's air pollution has caused a storm, with more than
200 million Chinese viewers already. Over two hours long, Under the
Dome highlights the complex problem of pollution in China
graphically capturing villagers in Shaanxi province, whose lives
were engulfed by smoke from nearby coal plants and her six-year-old
daughter who has never seen blue sky. Set in a context of the
importance of building sustainable growth for the benefit of
generations. It is first and foremost a story of children,
intergenerational equity and the need to build a society that is
worth being a part of.
The documentary, stunning in its critique of government policy
(particularly in the context of President Xi's tightening of
internet controls), was publicly supported by China's new
Environment Minister, Chen Jining, (appointed one day before the
documentary was released). In his first press conference the day
after his appointment, he commented that he had already watched the
documentary and had phoned Chai Jing to thank her for her
In the documentary fossil fuels, particularly coal, emerge as a
major culprit in the nation's smog plague. Chai Jing clearly
articulates the policy tension of reducing coal consumption and the
impact on the livelihood of those working in steel mills and power
plants in provinces throughout China. Under the Dome does more than
bear witness – it (together with the National Economic and
Social Development Plan) represents a significant opportunity for
Australian / Chinese collaboration and opportunities for Australian
business. It is not the end of a relationship with Australian coal
manufacturers but a beginning – moving away from low energy,
high ash and sulphur towards better alternatives and new
In its 2015 Draft Plan for National Economic and Social
Development (issued on the first day of the National Party Congress
on Thursday 5 March) the National Development and Reform Commission
indicates a key element to support the transformation of China to a
services economy is innovation in energy production and consumption
(including the reduction of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide
emissions) coupled with the expansion of investment in projects
aimed at environmental protection and ecological improvement and
the phasing out of outdated production capacity. In further support
to clean the coal industry, the Ministry of Industry and
Information Technology announced that as part of the 13th Year Plan
(to commence in 2016) China will launch a five-year action plan to
make the industrial use of coal cleaner and more efficient.
China's hope to see the stars is the perfect opportunity for
Australia/China collaboration and CHAFTA presents the platform.
More than half billion tonnes of coal is mined in Australia each
year from national reserves that are the fourth largest in the
world and until recently was a significant beneficiary of
China's demand for coal. As we have previously argued while
ChAFTA is a giant step forward in trade relations between China and
Australia, it is not an end in itself. "Brand Australia"
needs to emerge (see
Australia's FTA with China - Better to grow slowly than to
The clean coal technology being developed by Australian
companies and the CSIRO represents the opportunity to reposition
Australia's coal industry and "Brand Australia" as a
leading destination for research, development and technology.
Direct Injection Carbon Engines (supported by the industry Coal21
Fund and CSIRO), BCB Technology (supported by industry and CSIRO)
are real and exciting opportunities for Brand Australia.
Initiatives such as the Australia China Joint Coordination Group on
Clean Coal Technology show the power of combined funding and
collaboration on low emission coal technology.
It is clear that companies with the most appeal to Chinese
investors and capital will be those that address China's
pollution challenge. Australia as a quarry, a farm or a hotel will
not deliver long term prosperity. Forging an Australia / China
cleantech collaboration will meet the needs in two markets and
build the foundation for future prosperity.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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