More than 100 environment ministers from around the world wrapped up their five-day meeting Friday in the Kenyan capital, pledging to adopt "green" development pattern in their respective country to reverse the trend of worsening environment on the earth.
The ministers, attending the UN Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council meeting and the 4th Global Ministerial Environment Forum, have agreed that the current unsustainable production and consumption pattern of the world is among the root causes of environment degradation on the planet.
The last half-century has been a time of unprecedented expansion in the global economy. The gross world product expanded nearly seven-fold since 1950 to US$46 trillion in 2001, while the number of people on the planet more than doubled, rising to 6.2 billion in 2001.
These underlying trends have led to rapid increases in the production and consumption of energy, materials and a broad range of consumer goods.
UNEP figures indicated that global oil consumption and paper production have both more than tripled since the early 1960s, while aluminium production has climbed more than five-fold.
These trends have contributed greatly to worsening air and water pollution, depletion of forest and marine resources, shortage of freshwater, loss of biodiversity and land degradation.
"The resources on the earth are limited, the physical support function of environment for development is also limited," said Xie Zhenhua, director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, in an interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the meeting.
"If the traditional production and consumption pattern continues, the earth will be over-burdened and the environment we all depend on will face greater threat," he noted.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to change such development pattern by adopting technology-intensive and economically-efficient pattern characteristic of low resources consumption, low pollution and harmonic development between humans and nature, he said.
"Many facts have proved a 'win-win' development pattern can be found if we are determined to tackle the issue," Xie said.
China is the largest developing country with huge population and limited per capital resources, and over the past two-decades, the country's economy have grown by around 8 percent annually.
However, the rapid economic development also caused serious environment degradation simply because many industries had adopted the traditional development pattern.
"In recent years, the Chinese government took strong measures to tackle the issue, which have yielded fruitful results," the director said.
Official statistics indicated that from late 1990s, China's economy has still grown in a fast manner, however, by the end of 2000, the amount of major pollutants emitted had been kept to the level of 1995, with the trend of environment degradation having been basically reversed.
Xie said that the measures that have been taken include shutting down heavily-polluted factories, reducing coal use while increasing its efficiency, and restricting the opening of new factories that have the potential of causing pollution.
In the agricultural sector, an ambitious Green for Grain campaign have been launched, in which the government provides farmers with grain and cash subsidies in return for their quitting farming on hillsides while planting trees and grass on the land.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government increased its spending on environment conservation. From 1998 to 2002, such spending stood at 580 billion yuan (about US$69.9 billion), almost doubling the total spending between 1950 to 1997.
During the UNEP meeting, Xie was requested to brief the ministers of China's experience, which was hailed by delegates from both developed and developing countries.
UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer told the meeting that the crushing burden of the world's population together with over-consumption and wasteful use of resources by the rich are two fundamental drivers of environmental degradation.
"A successful environmental strategy must take account of this relationship and the need for a capacity building initiatives for developing countries," he said.
He pointed to the fact that the Johannesburg Earth Summit last year had mapped out a blue print for sustainable development of the world, which should be implemented in serious manner.
"Fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development," says the Plan of Implementation adopted at the summit.
It calls for the development of a 10-year framework of programs in support of regional and national initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns that will "promote social and economic development within the carrying capacity of ecosystem."
(People’s Daily February 9, 2003)