Watchdog restarts study on green GDP

China has resumed research on green GDP and plans to start pilot projects next year, according to the environmental watchdog.

Green GDP is an economic growth index that quantifies and measures the monetary costs of environmental damage caused by a country’s economic growth.

China’s move follows a call by the top leadership to improve GDP, said Li Qingrui, head of the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s policy bureau.

On March 24, the top leadership adopted the concept of “greenization” for the first time, listing it with the country’s four main goals of “industrialization, urbanization, informationization and agricultural modernization”.

The revised Environmental Protection Law, which took effect this year, requires local governments to take responsibility for the environment. This is also a reason for the ministry to restart research on green GDP, Li said.

China first published green GDP data for 2004 two years later, but research on how to compile green GDP has been suspended since then.

An application system for green GDP will be established along with detailed technical specifications for the new index by the end of this year. Pilot cities will then adopt the green GDP in 2016 and 2017 to test the research.

The ministry did not say when the results of the research and pilot projects will be made public.

According to the first green GDP data, economic losses caused by pollution in 2004 amounted to 511.8 billion yuan ($82.5 billion), accounting for 3.05 percent of GDP.

“Release of the green GDP data had a great impact on traditional production at the time,” said Chang Jiwen, deputy director of the Research Institute of Resources and Environment Policies at the State Council Development Research Center.

Chang added that the data triggered conflict among some local governments over the implementation methods.

But in view of the great attention being paid to environmental protection by the central government, now is the right time to resume research on green GDP, which will help to reduce obstacles, he added.

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