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China’s Middle Class Will Drive Clean-up: Bloomberg

Air Pollution in China
A child wearing a mask plays in the heavy smog in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Jan. 24, 2013. Experts say that if China wants to avoid the kind of smog that choked the country earlier, it must overhaul an economy fuelled by heavily polluting coal and car use. Photographer: AFP via Getty Images

China’s government will be forced to act against pollution because its growing middle class is demanding it, said former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

The United Nations special envoy on cities and climate said fumes from coal-fired power plants are killing about 250,000 a year in China. He said the nation won’t be able to keep opening a new coal plant on average each week.

“Governments exist and survive at the will of the people,” he said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York today. “The public isn’t going to stand for it. So they will put scrubbers on power plants. They will start using solar. China is going to have to do this. They don’t have a choice.”

He also criticized U.S. tariffs on solar cells imported from China, saying they’re helping a handful of manufacturers more than the American public.

The protectionist policies were sought mainly by a small number of U.S. solar companies that are struggling to compete against Chinese rivals, Bloomberg said.

“The Chinese sell us solar panels at below the cost we can make them,” he said.

Those low-cost panels provide benefits to individuals, who can lower their utility bills, he said.

“Nobody is out there representing the public,” which benefits from cheap solar panels, Bloomberg said. “If the Chinese want to support our economy, send it in, babes.”

Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

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