The central government should set up a new and powerful commission to help protect the nation's environment.
Instead of having the present State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), which can only monitor environmental changes and seems to lack power to enforce the rules, the new commission would co-ordinate all affairs important for China's long-term development.
Gu Haibing, a professor of the Renmin University of China, suggested this proposal in the Chinese-language newspaper 21st Century Business Herald. He proposed the new environmental protection commission should oversee not just the present SEPA, but also state agencies of forestry and maritime administration.
Gu's proposal includes setting up a more powerful central government organization, called the "Commission for Long-term Development", which would be in charge of planning, land uses and future energy options. Gu's concept will not only improve the environmental protection, it will also help new industries and new revenues grow.
In many cases, development has created new industries and services. Back in the 1980s, few Chinese ever dreamed about having telephones in their homes, driving their own car or truck, buying apartments larger than their parents', and buying and selling stocks. These services are now part of our daily lives, and have contributed to the high record of GDP growth. Despite all the doubt about the accuracy of the nation's economic statistics, change can actually be felt in the street, in both good ways and bad.
More houses, more urban jobs and more people using mobile telecommunications are good examples of positive change, however more pollution is definitely a problem that must be addressed immediately.
China is now the world's second largest discharger of carbon dioxide - nearly 25.5 million tons every year - according to Banyue Tan magazine (Fortnightly Review). Official figures show China would lose 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) on every ton of carbon dioxide discharge. This adds up to a US$60 billion annual loss.
If effort is duly made to turn this huge amount of pollution into clean air or other harmless and useful things, at least US$60 billion would become the nation's GDP gain.
China's most serious problem now, however, is not that huge pollution being discharged every day and night, but that no one, except for the government, is paying for the cleaning effort.
This lack of industrial responsibility is worse than the pollution itself. It virtually makes pollution a national habit.
In order to reverse the unhealthy trend, China should make the entire industry pay for the environment - by having more laws and stronger administration. Government spending on its own is not enough.
Judging from the size of the ongoing pollution, the industry is big enough to become a new engine of China's growth in GDP and in creating new jobs.
Frequently, industry sources point out that irrational regulations issued by various government agencies in the past, usually low charges on discharges, have become an important incentive to industrial polluters, making them fearless in doing what they have been doing for years.
Changing these outdated regulations by one centralized regime is more significant than endless persuasion and investment in environmental technologies.
(China Daily September 18, 2006)