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German Solution to Environmental Problem
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Heiligendamm, built exclusively summer spa on Germany's Baltic coast for European nobility in 1793, is the center of the world's attention for more reasons than one. Leaders of the major world powers have gathered there to discuss issues that can shape our future. Though tensions between the US and Russia are threatening to overshadow other issues at the Group of Eight (G8) summit, global warming will definitely be high on the leaders' agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chairs the annual G8 summit, hopes the leaders would agree to a goal of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050. And even if the other heads of states don't agree to her proposal, they will certainly debate over it.

But German Ambassador to China Dr Volker Stanzel thinks such discussions are far from enough to combat global warming. "The question now is what kind of strategy, what kind of measures we should take and with what speed should they be implemented" to deal with climate change, he says.
The 59-year-old diplomat headed the press and information department in the German embassy in Beijing from 1990 to 1993, and was appointed ambassador in September 2004. He looks more like a scholar, gentle and suave, and is articulate and convincing when he speaks.

Though the US and some other developing nations are opposed to Merkel's "mandatory caps", Stanzel thinks there is "hope we will come closer to analyzing the problems facing us, and finding similar ways to solve them".

Apart from the heads of the eight most industrialized states -- the US, the UK, France Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia -- the leaders of five developing countries - China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa - will also attend the summit. So the summit is not only about the G8 states, but also about the "rest of the world" represented by the five developing nations, or the "outreach five". President Hu Jintao will attend the G8's outreach session at the invitation of Merkel.

The G8 members want to talk to the "outreach five" to know their views on what should be done to solve major global problems, Stanzel says. "Of course, the G8 states and the outreach five can't be expected to have the same approach (because their) interests are too diverse. But at least we can make efforts to identify our (G8's), as well as their (outreach five's) interests and then see how closely we can agree on their solutions," Stanzel says.

Citing US President George W. Bush's June 1 speech, he says even the G8 countries don't have a uniform stance. "That too is quite natural because of their diverse interests." Bush wants to have a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions after the expiry of the UN-sponsored Kyoto Protocol in 2012. He would like to see in place a "strong and transparent system to measure each country's performance". But he has not indicated if his proposal includes mandatory targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

Critics have reacted quickly, saying the international community is already moving toward a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement on mandatory emission reduction, and hence it does not need a parallel mechanism to discuss voluntary anti-pollution goals.

But Stanzel welcomes Bush's suggestion. "It shows the US government, too, is becoming aware that the problem is more urgent than what some people used to think. So I believe Bush's declaration is a step toward a coherent G8 position."

Most of the countries today have come to realize the gravity of the problem, and China is definitely one of them, he says. "There is no doubt that China has done a lot" to combat climate change. "The question is whether it has done enough."

Earlier this week, China issued a national plan to combat climate change, encouraging energy conservation and promoting the use of new technology to trap greenhouse gases. Also among the policies are planting more saplings to increase forest cover.

But independent efforts are far from enough to turn the wheels of global warming, Stanzel says. The world as a whole has to agree on the kind of measures needed to combat global warming. And that is what the G8 summit will try to achieve. "What we are going to do in Heiligendamm is to try to find ways of bringing all the countries even closer."

Speaking on China-German relations, Stanzel describes the bilateral ties as "very good". In China, "pragmatism has taken hold of the traditional bureaucracy, making cooperation so much easier and more productive. Both sides today take a more realistic approach - it's a result-oriented cooperation".

"We have good trade relations and a good economic partnership. They're not based as much on government-to-government relations as on company-to-company ties," he says. German enterprises have been coming to China looking for partners. Offering advantages like technology transfer, they try to set up joint ventures to get a footing in China or to attract Chinese companies to Germany.

Germany today is China's biggest trade partner in the European Union. It is also one of China's major sources of foreign capital and technology. Five years ago, China overtook Japan as the biggest trade partner of Germany in Asia. Sino-German trade has maintained a two-digit yearly growth over the past 10 years, with last year's volume reaching US$78.2 billion, an increase of 23.6 percent over 2005.

Last week, a Chinese investor from Central China's Henan Province struck a deal to buy Parchim Airport in northern Germany for 1 billion yuan (US$130 million). The facility in Schwerin, not far from Hamburg and Berlin, is reportedly the first airport in Europe to be wholly owned by a Chinese company.

This is the kind of cooperation that Germany is seeking for the future, Stanzel says. "The more industrialized China becomes, the more its companies will get involved on the global stage. It's a positive development that characterizes the future of economic relationship."

Such cooperation will get a further boost after Merkel's planned visit to China later this year, even though the focus of her trip is supposed to be culture, he says.

"This autumn we'll start a three-year project to present Germany in China. It'll be more than just a cultural year (we want) to present German society, the life of its people, especially their relationship with China. We want to go beyond" concerts, and exhibitions in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, addressing people interested in Germany. President Hu agreed with his German counterpart Horst Kohler on the project during their meeting in Beijing, Stanzel says.
Merkel will inaugurate the project in Beijing, after which it will move to major provincial hubs such as Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province. In fact, Nanjing will see a series of events under German Weeks, "the largest German government project in China".

Beijing, too, has plans to present China to the Germans for a better understanding between the two peoples, says the diplomat. That will give the German people a real chance to know more about China and understand its history and culture better.

"As a rapidly developing country, China is bound to encounter new problems." That is something China has to make the world understand. But perhaps the most pressing question China faces today is environmental protection. "I first came to Beijing in 1990, and I've seen first hand the environmental deterioration in the capital. Of course, China will have a green Olympic Games because of the massive ongoing efforts. But what will happen after the Games are over?"

Stanzel's concern is understandable. But almost all government plans to protect the environment run beyond 2008 when the Olympics are to be held.

(China Daily June 7, 2007)

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