'No No No': Beijing's Officials Ordered to Reduce Their Emissions For a Day

Believe it or not, but over the past few weeks there's been a lot of official tree-hugging going on in the land of a thousand coal plants. With a mere 110 weeks before its "Green Olympics," China's government has gotten into the nice habit of making ecologically-minded pronouncements almost daily. Whether it was the unusually candid report detailing chemical poisoning deaths last year, the acknowledgement that economic growth and natural protection aren't exactly mutually exclusive, fighting ongoing drought with efficient toilets, promising to punish water wasters, planning to pass national recycling laws, or announcing efforts to revise energy efficiency standards, officials have been getting down with their green selves. But there's this Chinese proverb—"Thunder is louder than the little rain warrants"—and without serious implementation, rain is likely to remain "little" for awhile.

That's why today's "no no no" campaign—under which state officials in Beijing were ordered to say no to cars, elevators and air conditioning-—looked so darn huggable. It's part of the government's week-long drive to save energy, targeting the 7 million civil servants who use 5 percent of the country's electricity, which is up to 7 times more than the average Chinese citizen, and equal to the amount consumed by 780 million farmers. For it's part, Japan (which, we reported, is getting hipper to green) has just begun its second-annual campaign to get businessmen to ditch their suits and ties in order to save energy during the summer months—a drive that Prime Minister Koizumi fashionably embraced when he traded his suit for an Okinawan-style blue and white shirt last week.

But while officials at Japan's environmental ministry claimed their program prevented a million households' worth of carbon dioxide emissions last year, officials at China's environmental ministry claimed today that they hadn't even been told of their government's campaign. Though the AP also reports that some employees opted in, climbing as much as seven flights of stairs on a warm summer's day, the campaign appeared to be as successful as last month's "No Car" day, which failed to put much of a dent in the city's 2.6 million car traffic.

Okay, so maybe China's latest tree-hugging is actually more a case of tree-flirting. But at the very least, the idea's a nice one, and perhaps one that governments in the U.S. might consider importing from China--along with all the cheap factory-made goods that are really helping to power all those coal plants.