— Remarks by Li Keqiang, Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, at the opening ceremony of the International Cooperative Conference on Green Economy and Climate Change
It gives me great pleasure to attend the opening ceremony of this conference. We meet at a time when the international community is continuing to cope with the financial crisis and global climate change. At the conference, think tank representatives, current and former political leaders, experts, scholars, entrepreneurs and government officials from around the world as well as representatives of international organizations will hold in-depth discussions in Beijing on international cooperation in developing the green economy and tackling climate change. The conference will have major implications not only for the sound recovery of the world economy, but also for the sustainable development of the Chinese economy. I'd like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Chinese Government, to offer my congratulations on the opening of the conference and welcome all of you to China.
The green economy has become a powerful trend in the world today. Since industrialization began, mankind has achieved faster development than ever before. But while we enjoy the benefits of economic growth, we have to face the increasingly prominent problems of environmental pollution and resource depletion. Over the past decades, the world community has made arduous efforts to tackle the dilemma and achieve sustainable development. Since the beginning of the new century, especially in recent years, a large number of countries have taken the fostering of green industries as an important measure to promote economic restructuring. Many countries have underlined the importance of "green development" in their policies designed to cope with the financial crisis. While implementing a so-called "Green New Deal," they have also charted the course for post-crisis development with the same concept. It is widely acknowledged that a green economy not only helps save energy and reduce emissions, but also is conducive to promoting the efficient use of resources, increasing market demand and creating new jobs. It is an important means by which to balance environmental protection and economic development.
The Chinese Government attaches great importance to developing the green economy and coping with climate change. Based on China's realities as well as international experience, we have taken sustainable development as a national priority and undertaken a major task of building a resource-saving and environmentally friendly society. We have also incorporated energy conservation and emissions reduction into the 11th Five-Year Plan for national economic and social development from 2006 to 2010 as a binding target, while setting clear requirements on controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The government also has adopted the General Work Plan for Energy Conservation and Emissions Reduction and the National Climate Change Program.
In recent years, we have accelerated industrial restructuring by shutting down outdated production facilities that consume large amounts of energy while discharging large quantities of pollutants to reduce energy consumption at the source. We have promoted energy conservation in major sectors, industries, projects and enterprises and are committed to improving energy efficiency. While taking a series of measures to promote energy conservation and enhance efficiency, we have developed the circular economy as well as energy-saving and environmentally friendly industries. At the same time, we have intensified efforts to deal with water pollution in major river systems by stepping up the construction of sewage treatment plants. We have strengthened efforts to tackle air pollution by introducing fuel smoke desulphurization processes to coal-fired power plants. We have increased forest carbon sinks by carrying out major ecological projects such as protecting natural forests, turning farmlands back to forests and changing pasture areas back to grasslands. In the past four years, China's energy consumption, chemical oxygen demand and sulfur dioxide discharges per unit of GDP have fallen 14.38 percent, 9.66 percent and 13.14 percent respectively. All this is evidence that China has made great progress in saving energy, curbing emissions and developing a green economy.
At the same time, we are well aware that China is still a developing country. As it speeds up industrialization and urbanization, it confronts myriads of challenges in economic development, poverty elimination, pollution control and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. While many long-term environmental problems have yet to be resolved, new problems keep cropping up. Despite our unremitting efforts, resource conservation, environmental protection and climate change mitigation remain pressing concerns. In the first quarter of this year, energy-consuming industries expanded rapidly alongside China's economic recovery, resulting in a rise in energy consumption per unit of GDP. This has posed a new challenge: One that will make it more difficult for us to meet the energy conservation and pollutant reduction targets set in the 11th Five-Year Plan. We have taken, and will continue to take, effective measures to address the challenge.
Looking ahead, China will pursue development in a scientific way by harmonizing economic and social development with natural resources and the environment. It will cultivate a culture of conservation while developing an industrial structure, a production mode and a consumption model conducive to energy conservation and environmental protection. It will focus on resolving prominent environmental problems that affect people's health in keeping with the principles of putting people first and environmental protection for the people. The purpose is to raise people's living standards along with China's economic development while improving the quality of their lives along with progress in environmental protection. The Chinese Government has set the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent compared with 2005 levels and raising the ratio of non-fossil fuel to primary energy consumption to about 15 percent by 2020. It has also pledged to increase forest carbon sinks while fostering the green economy. These are China's voluntary actions aimed at accelerating its economic restructuring and the transformation of its development mode as well as the necessary measures it will take to cope with global climate change. They are also requirements as well as inevitable choices for China, a nation of 1.3 billion people, to address energy and resource bottlenecks to achieve peaceful development and modernization.
Climate change is an environmental issue as well as a development issue. It has become a common challenge for all humanity. We should not forget approximately 1 billion people around the world live under the poverty line and that we still have a long way to go to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals. It is not in the common interest of mankind to slow down efforts to realize development goals for climate change mitigation, or to pursue economic growth at all costs and disregard the impact of climate change. The development of a green economy shows that mankind can find a new development model that not only meets the needs of coping with climate change and protecting the environment, but also is conducive to improving economic efficiency and promoting economic development. The green economy has become the order of the day throughout the world. But there remain questions on how to integrate this new development model into international cooperation to combat climate change—questions that require in-depth discussions. I'd like to make three suggestions in this respect:
First, we should hasten the change of economic development mode by promoting green development. The traditional economic growth mode achieves growth mainly by increasing the input of factors of production, consuming natural resources and seeking quantitative expansion. Given the growing prominence of environmental problems and natural resource shortages, this extensive growth mode has become increasingly unsustainable. We must therefore speed up economic restructuring to change the mode of economic development. To that end, we should boost the green economy for the sake of promoting green development in keeping with the principles of putting people first and achieving comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development. In particular, we should step up efforts to create institutions and mechanisms conducive to green development. With incentive polices and legally binding institutions in place, we will be able to pursue green development more willingly and proactively, while giving up shortsighted acts of blindly seeking growth with no regard for natural resources and the environment. This is also an important part of China's efforts to deepen its economic reforms.
As the world economy undergoes major adjustments and changes, countries—developing and developed alike—should seize the opportunities presented by the emergence of the green economy. We should attach greater importance to exploring new areas of economic growth characterized by low carbon dioxide emissions, to adjusting and upgrading traditional industries and fostering emerging industries including alternative energy, energy conservation and environmental protection, to energy conservation in production, logistics, distribution, consumption and construction, and to environmental protection. Governments should adopt policies and measures conducive to green development, and create an equitable system that harmonizes economy and society on the one hand and natural resources and environment on the other hand. They should encourage companies to develop green technologies, produce green products and boost the green economy. They should do their best to promote the sustainable use of resources and continued improvements in the environment for the sound recovery and sustainable development of the world economy.
Second, we should forge a culture of conservation while advocating green consumption. The natural environment has a great bearing on the advancement of civilizations. Mankind's ability to conquer nature has grown rapidly in modern times, but the ensuing environmental crises and ecological degradation indicate that a society unaware of environmental protection cannot achieve sustainable prosperity and will eventually pay a high price. The green economy calls on us to embrace the concept of harmony between man and nature. We should incorporate conservation and environmental ethics as part of our social mores. We should also view resource reserves and the environment as a major precondition to our economic activities. With these moves, we will be able to change people's ways of life and production as well as their behavioral pattern. While promoting green production and distribution, we should advocate green consumption as well. We should guide the public in adopting a consumption pattern highlighting conservation, environmental protection and low carbon dioxide emissions, with a focus on building a resource-saving and environmentally friendly society.
Third, we should improve the global economic system to create a favorable climate for the green economy. The global financial crisis has not changed the trend of globalization. Against this backdrop, climate change mitigation calls for efforts to save energy and resources in international cooperation while improving efficiency in allocating the factors of production. We are of the view that the international community should take trade liberalization and facilitation as a driving force of the green economy. It should oppose trade protectionism in various forms, including trade protectionism disguised as "green barriers." It should also adopt and implement trade policies to encourage the development of the green economy in a bid to allow the green economy to thrive around the world. Developed countries, in particular, should help developing countries foster a green economy as well as support the sustainable development of emerging economies by transferring technology, providing financial assistance and opening up markets.
Developing the green economy and tackling climate change will present major challenges as well as opportunities to the international community following the financial crisis. They also represent major tasks for China as it fulfills its goals for economic and social development as well as conservation. Both call for extensive international cooperation, along with concrete action to save energy and reduce emissions. Brainstorming provides a source of creativity and inspiration. This conference, held months after the Copenhagen climate change conference, has offered a rare opportunity for non-governmental think tanks to exchange ideas. I hope you will conduct wide-ranging exchanges and in-depth discussions related to the theme of the conference. By pooling the wisdom of all participants, I believe the conference will play a positive role in promoting the development of the green economy around the world and in facilitating international cooperation to address climate change.