As we approached the city of Changshu, a two hour drive from Shanghai, I could see along the way the economic growth driven by the 'opening up of the Chinese economy'. On either side of the expressway I could see massive construction activities with a maze of overbridges, skyscrapers and sprawling housing complexes. A giant dragon was not only awakening but now wide awake.
Over the last two decades, the world has been celebrating opening of markets and borders. Every week China celebrates the opening of one or two large power plants to ensure a steady supply of electricity to its economy. What an unprecedented growth.
But I was in the city of Changshu to celebrate the closure of a business! Now this fact would invite many questions. A United Nations representative in China to celebrate the closure of a business? And at the invitation of the Chinese Government? It sounds like 'Alter movement' or 'Anti Globalization campaign' which aims at anti-business slogans!
Interestingly, the closure was for opening a new chapter in the history of the Montreal Protocol. China closed the manufacturing facility of CFCs ( chlorofluorocarbons) and Halons ( bromochlorofluoromethanes) on 1st July2007. The closure was two and a half years ahead of the schedule stipulated in the Montreal Protocol. China, the largest producer of CFCs and halons since 1996, shut down its business to close the ozone hole and open up the expressway leading to ozone-friendly world!
Accelerated closure of production of hazardous chemicals in China has sent a strong signal to the entire world that a simple step in early closure could open the long march towards sustainable development. The venue of the celebration was also symbolic. The city of Changshu boasts of many chemical and textile plants. It is under the administration of China's flagship city of Suzhou where economic growth is one of the highest in China. The mayor of Changshu, Mr Wang Jiankang, was also giving a subtle message to the chemical industry about the strategic approach for the chemical management, i.e. getting rid of the toxic chemicals as early as possible.
It is an untold story that by stopping the production of nearly 60,000 MT per year of CFCs and Halons, China has also contributed to reducing climate change impact, because CFCs and halons are also Green House Gases (GHG). The equivalent of CO2 reduction achieved by such closure is about greater of gigatons. This is 25 % of the global target under the Kyoto Protocol in year 2010 to 2012. That opens up further possibilities for reducing Climate Change.
The city of Suzhou is known for its natural beauty and gardens. The Chinese say that in the heaven we have paradise and on the earth we have Suzhou. With the closure of the CFC and Halons plants Suzhou looked even better.