China goes green.

Amid news of massive layoffs and financial uncertainty, New Scientist sheds a ray of hope on the Middle Kingdom, reporting on China’s new five-year plan for a greener tomorrow:

This will involve a big switch towards renewable energy and increasing consumption of produce domestically.

That’s the main message from the Chinese government’s draft 13th five-year plan, unveiled in Beijing on 5 March and expected to be adopted this week.

The “new normal” will involve a shift to moderate rather than dramatic economic growth, based more on consumption than exports.

“This is a big shift in how China is thinking about its economy,” said Kate Gordon of the Paulson Institute, a sustainable energy think-tank based in Chicago, Illinois, at a press conference last week. “It’s an attempt to decouple economic growth from energy consumption.”

Central to the planned move away from heavy industry is a nationwide effort to reduce dependence on coal, the dirtiest fuel in terms of carbon emissions.

Indeed, China’s carbon emissions may have already peaked, according to a new report by economist Lord Stern to be published this week.

Much of the impetus for change has come from the Chinese public in response to record levels of coal-related air pollution in recent years in some major cities.

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