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Environment Remains Key to Progress
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An official with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) yesterday refuted suggestions in Wednesday's Financial Times that China was to abandon the plan to link gross domestic product (GDP) with the environmental situation on account of calculating difficulties,

"We are still working hard on the calculation system and have never spoken about 'giving up' on it," the official, who refused to be named, told China Daily yesterday.

She did however admit that it is a complicated task to calculate green GDP, an amendment to GDP that deducts the cost of environmental damage and resource depletion caused by economic development.

In co-operation with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the bureau has been busy with green GDP pilot projects in 10 provinces and municipalities, including Beijing and Tianjin, the official said.

Experts said that no country in the world has found a solution to the challenge, even though the concept has been commonly spoken of for more than three decades.

"There is no sign that China will find a reliable and accurate solution, at least in the near future," said Zhang Jianyu, an environment expert with US-based Environmental Defence.

According to Zhang's analysis, the difficulty results from the fact that GDP is a sum that can be reflected by money, while it is by no means an easy job to price resource depletion and environmental losses.

Former NBS director Li Deshui also admitted difficulty.

"How do you price the loss of a species extinction caused by pollution?" Li said at China Circular Economy Summit which was held last year in Beijing.

Li also said environment and resource conditions have changed frequently, adding to the difficulty in evaluation.

But Zhang said the pilot projects are proof that the Chinese Government is sincere in its concern over the environment.

In the previous 27 years China has sustained an average annual economic growth of 9.5 percent amid increasing environmental deterioration and resource shortage. It is common among officials of all levels to use GDP growth as a performance indicator.

"The central government is looking for a more scientific way to evaluate officials' performance to stop them from blindly pursing economic growth," said Zhang.

He recommended caution over playing up the green GDP idea as it was just one possible solution.

"No matter whether we succeed or fail in establishing a calculation system, we cannot neglect the fact that China is facing serious environment problems," said Zhang. "Action to protect the environment is more meaningful than finding an accounting system."

(China Daily May 12, 2006)



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