Panel Paper: Environmental Pollution As Public Priority for Urban Sustainability in China

Friday, July 20, 2018
Building 3, Room 210 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dong Guo and Allison Bridges, Columbia University

In 2012, China launched the New Urbanization Plan with the goal to hasten growth of an urban service-based economy. Although many of the goals set in the plan are laudable, such as measures for environmental protection and natural resource conservation, the public has been given little opportunity to influence the urban growth agenda. To gauge public opinion on sustainability issues, a survey was carried out in three cities in Henan Province. Analysis of survey results identified areas in which the interests of urban residents and the interests of the government diverge and align, as well as how these development priorities compare to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Across the three cities, environmental pollution was raised as the priority issue, particularly as it pertains to human health, in addition to government accountability and quality public services for education, health, water and sanitation. The central government places significant importance on economic growth and modern infrastructure, priorities that are in line with public concern for economic opportunity and quality public services. Issues given comparatively less attention by both the central government and the public, but prioritized by the SGDs, include inequality programs, particularly for women, land and biodiversity conservation in urban areas, and climate change resiliency. This research offers recommendations for urban level sustainability indicators that can be used to monitor progress towards overlapping public and government goals, to hold local officials accountable for meeting sustainability standards, and to raise public awareness of non-prioritized issues.

Full Paper: