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
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
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
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
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
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
(China Daily September 18, 2006)