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'Green Commuters' Aim for Blue Skies
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Committed to making Beijing skies a little cleaner and bluer, approximately 30 companies yesterday made a pledge to encourage their employees to be "green commuters" by using public transport instead of driving into work.

The campaign is the brainchild of US-based non-profit organization Environmental Defense and its Chinese partners.

Companies that have pledged their support include oil giants BP and Shell, as well as the China Electrical Council.

Daniel Dudek, chief economist of Environmental Defense, said the actions of individuals are as important as government efforts in protecting the environment.

"Today's commitment to becoming a green commuter contributes to Beijing's clean air, energy saving and Green Olympics efforts."

He also linked commuters' actions to the county's target of cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent from 2005 to 2010.

"It is hard to imagine, but driving less and taking public transport more will help fulfill the national ambition," he told China Daily at the launch ceremony yesterday.

Taking the subway and bus should be encouraged, and are "easy steps to take by individuals".

The initiative is part of Environmental Defense's Clean Air Campaign, which also includes air quality sampling, laboratory analysis, releasing environmental information, and establishing a public information exchange platform.

"All sub-projects are based on scientific research and public participation and that is an effective approach to solving environmental problems," Dudek said.

Statistics show that vehicle emissions have a huge negative impact on Beijing's air quality.

From January to May this year, there were 13 fewer "blue sky" days than in the same period last year.

Huang Haoming, secretary-general of the China Association of NGO Cooperation (CANGO), which is a co-organizer of the campaign, said that his organization would mobilize more civil organizations and companies for joining its network and participating in the "Green Commuter" campaign. Currently, CANGO has more than 120 member organizations nationwide.

"We hope that our campaign can be included into the government's environmental agenda. This will make it much easier to implement," Huang said.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau has previously forecast that if all the registered 2.62 million vehicles in Beijing stopped running for just one day every month, pollutant levels would be cut by 44,000 tons in one year.

Wang Yue, director of China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges, said he and his 63 employees were committed to the project.

"I came to this event by subway. I'm going to take the lead in using public transportation."

However, the city's number of cars continues to increase by 10 percent every year, which poses an immense challenge for campaign organizers.

(China Daily June 2, 2006)


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