【英语中国】中国污染治理任重道远

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所属分类:双语中国

2013-12-6 09:04

小艾摘要: When Beijing’s pollution spikes, so do Chris Buckley’s sales.“I open my window in the morning and look out, and I can tell how many calls I will get that day,” says Mr Buckley, who sells air purif ...
When Beijing’s pollution spikes, so do Chris Buckley’s sales.

“I open my window in the morning and look out, and I can tell how many calls I will get that day,” says Mr Buckley, who sells air purifiers and face masks at his two Torana Clean Air outlets in Beijing.

Pollution may be bad for most people’s health, but it is good for some people’s businesses. China is a growing market for any product that can reduce emissions or their effect on human health, from water treatment contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to face masks that sell for a few cents each.

Smog in China regularly reaches levels deemed unsafe for long-term exposure, and air quality has become a fixation of the upper middle class in Beijing. It has eclipsed other arguably more serious problems – for instance, more than half of the country’s waterways are considered “severely polluted”. One of the toughest problems is the soil pollution that stunts crops and causes high levels of cancer among villagers.

Mr Buckley, a chemist by training and a former lab safety adviser for Procter & Gamble, sold woollen carpets made in Tibet with traditional dyes and modern designs. He added air purifiers to his shops about five years ago. “My staff thought I was nuts but, after a few years, air purifiers started outselling rugs,” he says.

As China gets richer, citizens increase their demands for clean streets, drinkable tap water and fresh, breathable air.

At the same time, wealth is still being created from mines, construction and factories belching fumes, meaning that attempts to address pollution often seem to lag well behind the pollution itself.

Only half of China’s household and industrial waste is treated. New investment barely keeps up with the hundreds of millions of Chinese who are swelling the cities.

In the frigid winter of 2005, a 90km benzene slick flowed down the Songhua river in Manchuria, cutting off drinking water in Chinese and Russian cities. That spill was a turning point. Initially covered up by provincial governments and the petrochemical company that caused it, the spill ultimately led to greater tolerance of environmental reporting, and a much greater allocation of public funds for pollution mitigation.

The Chinese government earmarked Rmb3tn ($492bn) towards environmental protection, carbon reduction and recycling in the five years ending in 2015, up from Rmb1.4tn in the five years before 2010. Half that money was destined for wastewater and solid waste treatment plants, in a sign of the basic problems that still need to be addressed.

It is no accident that one of the biggest Chinese investments into Great Britain is the sovereign wealth fund’s purchase of a 9 per cent stake in Thames Water, a utility that traces its history to the “Great Stink” of Victorian times when the smell of sewage wafted through London. Thames Water offers not only a steady rate of return but also expertise in managing the problems of dense modern cities. The parallel growth of China’s economic might and its pollution problem present an opportunity for companies that offer anything from basic urban services to more specialised technological solutions.

French utility Veolia treats water used by 43m people in 11 Chinese cities. Rival Suez Environnement has plants in five cities. Both companies face competition from Chinese municipal utilities that are developing into water-service companies.

For smaller companies offering higher-tech solutions, government support still makes a big difference, says Liang Qing of Tianjin GoalGen Biotechnology, who ploughs profits from his pharmaceuticals research company into a second business that makes sewage-treatment equipment for toilets at isolated industrial sites.

“Before, as we say in Chinese, it was ‘big thunder, little rain’ – lots of talk but little support. Now there are lots of measures,” says Mr Liang.

“I think it’s reflective of the country’s development. Now that the government has money, it needs to do something about the environment.”

Of course, too much support can have unintended consequences, contributing to the overcapacity that plagues Chinese industry.

Profit margins are so low that factories are reluctant to run emissions reduction equipment. In the environmental realm as well as many other sectors, Chinese local governments like to pick local champions for central government largesse.

Simply earmarking money doesn’t mean environmental goals are met.

In a country where powerful industrial and political interests are often at cross-purposes, and most citizens are still a long way from the quality of life enjoyed in Europe and the US, opportunities to pollute and to make money cleaning up that pollution are likely to be many and varied. Says Mr Buckley: “I still have a couple of decades to sell my air purifiers.”

当北京的污染程度飙升时,克里斯?巴克利(Chris Buckley)的销售额也在飙升。

巴克利表示:“早晨,我推开窗户向外看,就能确定那天我会接到多少电话。”他在北京的图兰纳空气净化公司(Torana Clean Air)有两家门店,出售空气净化器和口罩。

污染可能对多数人的健康不利,但却有利于某些人的生意。对于任何一种能够减少排放或减少排放对人类健康影响的产品而言,中国都是一个日益增长的市场,从价值数亿美元的水处理合约,到售价几美分的口罩。

中国的雾霾经常达到长期暴露其中便不安全的水平,空气质量已成为北京上层中产阶级关注的问题。其受关注程度超过了其它可以说更严重的问题,例如中国超过一半的地下水被认为受到“严重污染”。最严重的问题之一是土壤污染,它阻碍了农作物的生长,而且导致一些村民的高患癌率。

巴克利是一名科班出身的化学家,他以前曾担任宝洁(Procter & Gamble)的实验室安全顾问。他还卖过采用传统方法印染但设计现代的西藏产羊毛地毯。大约5年前,他在店内增加了空气净化器产品。他表示:“我的员工当时认为我很傻,但几年后,空气净化器的销量开始超过地毯。”

随着中国的财富增长,市民提高了对干净街道、直饮水以及新鲜洁净空气的需求。

同时,财富仍在喷出烟尘的矿山、建设工地和工厂中被创造出来,这意味着,解决污染问题的尝试似乎常常大幅落后于污染本身。

中国的生活和工业垃圾只有一半得到了处理。新的垃圾处理投资完全跟不上数亿中国人涌入城市的速度。

2005年那个寒冷的冬天,苯类物质流入松花江,污染带长达90公里,切断了中国和俄罗斯一些城市的饮用水供应。这一苯泄漏事件是一个转折点。省政府和导致此次事故的石化公司起初掩盖这一泄漏事件,最终政府提高了对环境报道的容忍度,而且将更多公共资金用于减少污染。

中国政府拨款3万亿元人民币(合4920亿美元),专门用于截至2015年的5年时间内的环保、二氧化碳减排以及废物回收利用,高于2010年之前5年的1.4万亿元人民币。其中一半的资金用于废水处理和固体垃圾处理工厂,这表明,一些基本的问题仍需解决。

中国对英国最大的投资之一是,中国主权财富基金购入公用事业机构泰晤士水务(Thames Water) 9%的股权,这并非偶然。泰晤士水务的历史可以追溯到维多利亚(Victorian)时期的“大恶臭”(Great Stink),当时下水道的臭味在整个伦敦弥漫。泰晤士水务不仅带来了稳定的回报率,而且还提供了处理人口稠密的现代城市所面临诸多问题的专长。中国经济实力的增长和污染问题的增多,为一些公司带来了机遇,不论它们提供的是基本城市服务,还是更专业的技术解决方案。

法国公用事业机构威立雅(Veolia)为中国11个城市的4300万人提供水处理服务。它的竞争对手苏伊士环境公司(Suez Environnement)在中国5个城市设有工厂。两家公司都面临着来自中国市政公用事业单位的竞争,后者正向水服务公司发展。

天津冠勤生物科技(Tianjin GoalGen Biotechnology)的梁青表示,对于提供高科技解决方案、规模较小的公司而言,政府支持仍发挥着巨大作用。他用他的制药研究公司赚的利润,投资了第二家企业,后者为偏远工业场所卫生间生产下水处理设备。

“以前,就像我们汉语里讲的,‘雷声大,雨点小’,很多空话,支持很少。如今有大量措施出台。”梁青表示。

“我认为,这反映出我们国家的发展。政府现在有钱了,它需要对环境做点什么了。”

当然,太多的支持可能会产生意想不到的后果,造成困扰中国工业的产能过剩。

工厂利润率现在非常低,以至于不愿运行减排设备。在环境领域以及其它很多行业,中国地方政府喜欢挑选出地方冠军企业享受中央政府的慷慨拨款。

但仅仅拿出专用资金并不意味着环境目标实现了。

在一个强大的行业和政治利益经常发生冲突、而且多数公民的生活质量距离欧美还很远的国家,先污染、再赚钱治理污染的可能性很大。巴克利表示:“我的空气净化器还可以再卖几十年。”

译者/梁艳裳

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