China has made great progress in its environmental protection thanks to the joint efforts of the government and the public, according to Gerd Leipold, the Global Executive Director of Greenpeace.
But he also urged the Chinese government to take a more serious view on climate change by promoting the use of renewable energy.
Leipold is in Beijing this week attending a forum on corporate social responsibility.
"There is a much stronger sense of environmental awareness among politicians, academics, journalists, the youth, especially students, and the population at large," Leipold said.
"The government is excellent when it comes to environmental protection. For example, their response to the chemical spill in the Songhua River last year was very impressive.
"China's environmental legislation, compared with that of other countries, is quite good, and enforcement is also good," he added.
Greenpeace, one of the most influential environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the world, lists China as one of the most strategically important countries in the world.
"It is not only because of China's fast growth," Leipold said, "but also because it is a test case of whether another model of development can succeed.
"If China follows the old Western model of first getting rich by exploiting its environment and then using the wealth to make up for the damage, it will have disastrous consequences."
Leipold called climate change one of the greatest threats to the planet today.
To that end, he said that China took a positive step by holding the large renewable energy conference last year, but more need to be done. And Greenpeace can help by providing more information.
Leipold also urged enterprises in China to pursue not only quality in manufacturing but also environmentally friendly processes for the sake of people's health and the environment.
Last year, Greenpeace urged international food companies not to use genetically modified materials and pushed IT companies to agree not to use toxic materials in their manufacturing processes.
"Greenpeace China is playing an increasingly important role in the country," according to Deng Guosheng, director of the NGO Research Center at Tsinghua University.
"Although some of its methods were considerably aggressive when it first started in China, it has shifted its focus to strengthening cooperation with the government, and winning the trust of consumers. Since Greenpeace insists on not accepting sponsorships from companies, it is independent, and will take tough action against companies found to be destroying the environment."
(China Daily February 24, 2006)