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China Urged to Focus on Well-Being, Climate Risks – Not GDP

Top global economists such as Nicholas Stern have urged China to adopt a new development model – based on “well-being” and countering climate risks rather than GDP growth.

Top global economists have urged China to focus on well-being and climate risks, instead of GDP growth.
The report by Stern and other influential economists urges China to focus on well-being and climate risks, instead of GDP growth. This image shows people swimming during a heatwave that hit Changxing, in Zhejiang province on August 20, 2022. File photo: Aly Song, Reuters.


Top global economists have urged China to adopt a new development model – based on “well-being” rather than GDP growth.

The suggestion from influential figures such as Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank who conducted a major review into the Economics of Climate Change for the British government in 2006, was made in a report that seeks to help Beijing fulfill its 2060 net-zero emissions goals and head off the mounting threats of climate change.

In a report published on Thursday, Stern and others – including another former chief economist at the World Bank – called on China to cap total fossil fuel consumption and establish a detailed “pathway” for reducing emissions.

The report and its recommendations have already been submitted to the Chinese government.


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‘Emissions reduction target needed’

Stern, who is chair of Britain’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told reporters he hoped it would play a constructive role in China’s 2026-2030 “five-year plan”.

The old development model drove rapid growth in China over the last four decades, but is putting the world at “grave risk”, the report said.

China is aiming to bring emissions to a peak by 2030, though it currently remains unclear at what level they will peak. Stern said it needed to set a specific numerical target in order to bring “clarity” to its decision-making.

The report also called on China to give greater prominence to public transport and set a timetable for the elimination of fossil-fuel vehicles. China should also promote low-carbon agriculture, including plant-based meat and dairy, it said.

China began experimenting with “green GDP” in 2005 as concerns mounted about the environmental damage done by rapid industrialisation. A 2006 government report concluded that environmental losses amounted to 3% of total GDP, but critics believed the actual figure was much higher.

Though the green GDP project was cancelled in 2009, China promised in 2013 to abandon a “growth at all costs” model and said GDP would no longer be the sole criteria on which officials would be assessed.

Some provinces have recently resumed efforts to create new indicators reflecting the environmental costs of development, with central China’s Hubei using a pilot “gross ecosystem product” that can be applied to individual districts, rivers or development projects.

China is home to 16 of the 20 global regions most vulnerable to climate change, data showed on Monday.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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