The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) will enhance cooperation with China to combat environmental degradation in the world’s most populous country, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said in Beijing on Tuesday.
“UNEP is going to expand its office in China and cooperate more with the country in its efforts for sustainable development,” said Toepfer, in the capital to attend the forum and ceremony in honor of the 20th anniversary of the UNEP Sasakawa Prize.
In a move welcomed by the Chinese government, UNEP opened an office here last year, its first in a developing country.
Toepfer stated that for China -- one of the fastest growing economies in the world -- it is very important to take the environment into account while pursuing economic growth.
Over the past 25 years, China’s economy has been growing at an average yearly rate of about 8 percent. Reckless pursuit of economic growth without considering the environmental costs, however, has resulted in serious environment degradation in some parts of the country.
Last year, the government began to embrace the concept of “scientific development” -- the coordinated development of economy, society and environment.
Toepfer said he had noted that all the senior government officials he had spoken with over the past two days expressed strong commitment to environmental protection.
In his speech at the 20th anniversary ceremony on Monday, Toepfer made special mention of the “tireless efforts” of State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) Minister Xie Zhenhua in promoting this cause.
Xie won the prestigious Sasakawa Prize in 2003.
At Monday’s ceremony, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan stressed the importance of resolutely carrying out the state’s policy of protecting the environment in the process of building a prosperous society.
Zeng pledged that China, as a responsible developing country, will strictly abide by its international obligations and actively participate in and promote international cooperation on environmental protection.
During the two-day meeting of Sasakawa laureates, panel discussions on the themes of water, land, air and energy were held. Those in attendance included Professor Mario Molina of the US, winner of a Nobel Prize for solving the riddle of the Antarctic ozone hole, and alternative technology guru and peoples advocate Dr. Ashok Khosla of India.
A Special UNEP Prize was awarded to former Prime Minister of Japan Ryutaro Hashimoto for his lifetime commitment and global achievements in the field of the environment.
The event was sponsored by the Nippon Foundation of Japan, in association with the China Association for International Friendly Contact, and hosted by SEPA.
Elsewhere in the capital city on Tuesday, National Development and Reform Commission Minister Ma Kai spoke at a conference of provincial and central government officials on the subject of the circular economy.
The idea of circular economy has been a hot topic in China in recent years as experts point out the country’s rapid economic development has been gained at the cost of its environment and resources.
The core of a circular economy is the highly efficient use and recycling of resources. It features low energy consumption, low pollutant emission and high efficiency.
China’s economic development plan calls for a quadrupling of GDP from its 2000 base. Even if resource consumption only doubles during the process, it will be difficult to ensure an adequate resource supply, Ma said.
The nationwide power shortages experienced since the second half of last year have already rung the alert, he stated.
Ma said conventional concepts and models of development must be discarded and replaced by methods of sustainable development.
The concept of the circular economy should be a guide for central and local government authorities when making development plans for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006–2010), he said.
By 2010, sound legal, regulatory, policy and R&D systems for the circular economy should be in place, Ma said. Assessment indices will be established together with mid- and long-term strategic objectives.
Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar with Tsinghua University, pointed out that there are some fundamental problems in the activation of the circular economy that must be addressed.
He stated that while the concept is being promoted by the government, some basic elements -- including laws, regulations and the enforcement thereof, as well as a sense of corporate responsibility -- are still being established or improved.
(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency, China Daily, September 29, 2004)