China’s Trans-Pacific Pollution

China has been an exportation hub for many years, supplying the rest of the globe with innumerable products on an ever-increasing scale. Unfortunately, it appears that an unwelcome additional extra has started to make its way around the world alongside these items: we’re now also importing its pollution.

The nation has accelerated its manufacturing capabilities in the last decade to meet worldwide demand, so a commensurate amount of sulphate and PM2.5 should come as no surprise. What has been painfully slow to catch up, however, is any attempt to mitigate the creation and spread of these dangerous substances.

More than two years ago I wrote with some hope on the subject (http://www.rolton.com/blog/first-steps-acknowledging-the-problems-we-face/), as the Chinese government had for the first time admitted that the cloud engulfing some of its largest cities was not fog, but smog. It looked like the start of a positive transition towards addressing what was a serious problem, one that had forced residents into wearing protective respirator masks so as to defend their lungs against the air they breathed. So what happened?

Well, put simply, the situation has worsened. Reports now claim that pollution is seeping in substantial quantities across the Pacific Ocean and into the United States. This is of particular significance because America is one of China’s largest customers, and a great deal of the toxic atmosphere that now hangs over its citizens’ heads comes as a direct result of products made specifically for them.

Like many countries, the USA has outsourced manufacturing to Asia with a view to cutting costs, and it will have also helped them reduce their official carbon footprint. Siphoning emissions off to another country to deal with does not solve the problem, however, and there has to be a discussion about where responsibility truly lies here; if the full carbon chain of custody was taken into account, there would be nowhere to hide for businesses or countries that currently outsource their supply and, simultaneously, their problems.

Customers worldwide aren’t often presented with the reality of where their purchases come from, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if they did they wouldn’t be prepared to accept the harmful fumes that are part and parcel of the same process. What they don’t see when they’re handling their newest prized possession is the by-product that remains in its country of origin. Can it be right that citizens of production-oriented countries are made to suffer for the material gains of overseas consumers? China may possess the world’s fastest growing economy, but it is one built on a pile-em-high carbon intensive philosophy that is quickly becoming anachronous.

To the profligate USA, perhaps the Pacific Ocean made the consequences of reckless consumerism feel far away. With a fair wind, however, we’ve seen that this is no longer the case. What we have to face up to is the fact that the world is simply too small a place to think ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Whether we pump polluted air into the atmosphere without taking measures to reduce toxicity, or whether we continue to promote a way of living that continually demands more without giving anything back, we can only expect to see more of the same. Unless accountability is measured throughout the supply chain, the corporate social responsibility of some will begin to look like little more than smoke and mirrors.

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As Chairman of the Rolton Group, Peter provides high-level strategic advice to a range of governmental, public sector and commercial clients. He is an acknowledged specialist in the renewable energy sector, and there is good reason for this: when it comes to energy, Peter is clear about the issues we face and the need for a cohesive strategy to tackle them. He is a passionate advocate of informed debate, and has consistently brought clarity to this complex situation."If the UK is united on one thing about energy it is that, on an individual basis, the public knows what it’s not in favour of. When it comes to offering up solutions, it’s not that confident. Pointing at single solutions like wind farms and saying that they are too expensive is missing the point. Carbon-based forms of energy like oil and gas are running out. Energy is going to be more expensive and a portfolio of renewable energies will necessarily be part of our solution in the future." Peter holds particular expertise in the areas of site-wide energy planning, zero carbon power generation, low carbon design, carbon offsetting and the application of renewable technology. He has acted as a Government advisor on numerous consultations and white papers, presenting to the Secretary of State on a number of occasions on the subject of renewable planning and public sector engagement. He has worked as a strategic partner with some of the world’s largest and most successful blue-chip companies, and is a Director of Renewables East, the renewable energy agency for the east of England.Peter is both a chartered building services engineer and a chartered member of the Institute of Energy, and has gained accreditation under the Carbon Trust Consultant Accreditation Scheme for solution development, with particular expertise in the establishment of energy strategies. He founded his first business, Rolton Services Consultants Limited, in 1989, and founded Cool Planet Technologies, a specialist renewable energy delivery partner which was sold to British Gas in 2010. He has been the architect of the path through which Rolton Group has addressed the challenges of renewables, carbon and the built environment."We need to see the bigger picture and not become hung up on individual technologies and individual costs. We need a completely different technology mix and not a reliance on one form of energy supply. We need all forms of technology to be applied – and we need it to happen quickly."

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