Rewards add to allure of green lifestyle in Guangdong

Hesitate to ditch your car and ride a bicycle instead? What if the choice could bring you cheaper meals or movie tickets?

South China’s Guangdong Province is expected to launch a pilot scheme this year to champion a low-carbon lifestyle by rewarding the public for everyday behavior that helps cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Five cities, including the provincial capital of Guangzhou, have applied for the scheme and are required to submit their plans by Friday, an official with the provincial development and reform commission told Xinhua earlier this week.

According to a directive released by the commission in mid-July, residents in pilot cities can accumulate reward points in return for using less water, dumping less trash, taking public transport and purchasing energy-efficient appliances. They can then exchange the points for discount coupons.

The incentive-based measure, said to be the first of its kind in the country, is aimed at addressing the increasing carbon emissions by residents in Guangdong due to rapid urbanization and improved standards of living, said the directive.

Large local manufacturing companies have seen declines in emissions after a provincial carbon exchange was launched in late 2013.

According to the directive, citizens can obtain, store and exchange their “green points” after logging onto a smartphone app or website, which have access to consumer data provided by public utility providers.

There is no effective way to rein in individuals’ carbon emissions, but rewarding green living can provide motivation, said Nie Bing, who heads the app development team of a Guangzhou-based state-owned company under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The team is testing the app at a Guangzhou community, with hundreds of registered users, Nie said, adding that rewards are currently given for using public transit, waste recovery, as well as saving water and electricity.

Liu Jia, who has been testing the app, has enjoyed discount meals at a fast food restaurant near his office since he started collecting points for his subway commute and walking every day.

“With the bonus, green consumerism is not only a spiritual goal for me, it also makes financial sense and encourages me to stick to my lifestyle more easily,” said Liu, an environmentalist.

A guide on the program issued by the provincial development and reform commission along with the directive suggests the governments of pilot cities mobilize businesses to offer discounts that are more generous than ordinary promotions to “green points” owners.

In addition, the owners should also enjoy lower utility costs, such as public transit fares and parking fees, according to the guide.

Nie hopes that greater privileges can be given to those who embrace a low-carbon lifestyle. “For example, in cities with car purchase restrictions, their application should be prioritized,” he said.

He believes that the incentive-based measure will spur the public’s demand for low-carbon technology and products and eventually force manufacturers to cater to the market, which is “the real value of the incentives.”

The government directive has called for the pilot program to be spread throughout the province by 2018.

As the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China raised new climate change goals a month ago, promising to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 percent to 65 percent by 2030 from 2015 levels and achieve a peak in emissions around the same year.

The goal is a big step from the country’s previous emission control target, which eyed a decrease of 40 per cent to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. Last year, its carbon emissions per unit of GDP was 33.8 per cent lower than the 2005 level.

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