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19 May, 2015

China seeks more balanced growth via new Gross Ecosystem Product index

Beijing, (People’s Daily Online)  May 18, 2015 – Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP), is a concept that complements and contrasts with GDP. It puts a price on the natural environment and tells people the value of the products and services that nature offers.

Urban GEP is a creation of Yantian district in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province. By putting a price on the natural system it adds another dimension to the value of the living system and indicates the benefits that derive to urban residents by improving their living environment.

Yantian District of Shenzhen City (People’s Daily Online photo)

In 2015, Yantian District began to implement a working mechanism of dual accounting, dual operating and dual promoting of both GDP and Urban GEP. Every year, Yantian will calculate and issue the GDP and GEP figures of the district. The target is to achieve GDP growth without diminishing GEP. In the next step, Urban GEP will be included in the government performance appraisal system and the assessment system for ecological development.

In a paper titled “Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of Ecological Civilization” issued by central government, the concept of greenification is proposed for the first time. It is ranked alongside new industrialization, urbanization, informatization, and agricultural modernization. It is key to working out how to establish a set of accountable, quantifiable, comparable and assessable indicators for ecological development.

In the form of monetary value, GEP appraises the functions of the invaluable ecological system, according to Sun Fangfang, a doctor at Research Academy of Environmental Sciences of Shenzhen City.

Urban GEP, takes into account indicators of the living environment including city planning, urban administration, city development and the economic value of the maintenance and improvement of the living environment. The accounting system includes two primary indicators, 11 secondary indicators and 28 tertiary indicators. The sum of these numbers processed through certain formulas is Urban GEP, says the director of environmental protection and water bureau of Yantian district.

The Urban GEP of Yantian District in 2013 was 101.5 billion, 2.5 times the GDP of the year. In 2014, the figure rose to 107 billion yuan. Where did the change come from? By changing the power source of gantry cranes and cargo trailers from oil to electricity and gas at Yantian Port, 14 tons of air pollutant and 75,000 tons of carbon emissions were eliminated. By developing a bicycling project, 150 tons of air pollutants and 49,000 tons of carbon emissions were avoided. In total, due to these measures, 150 million yuan of ecological value was created.

On Aril 27 a forum was held in Yantian District which attracted officials and scholars from ministries, international organizations and research institutions. The subject of the forum was this pioneering idea of Urban GEP.

The indexing system has its own problems. Affected by the complexity and the regional factors of the ecosystem, the system faces three major challenges: accuracy of monetary evaluation, accuracy of metrics, and forming a consensus on specifics.

However, in the forum an important consensus was reached: although more time might be required to solve these technical problems, the principle is right.

No matter how Urban GEP is defined, the most important thing is that Yantian’s ecological protection is completely in conformity with the concept of greenification proposed by central government. Yantian District must continue to explore the issue, according to Mengwei, director of Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences and Academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering.