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A tourist boat, decorated with green lights, travels on the Pearl River amid heavy haze in Guangzhou, Guangdong province March 3, 2014. 

Credit: Reuters/Alex Lee

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: China’s Environment Minister sees opportunity for global collaboration

By H.E. Mr. Zhou Shengxian, Minister, Ministry of Environmental Protection, The People’s Republic of China | 4 June 2014

Facing environmental challenges, promoting green development.

Human society has been challenged by overpopulation, unbalanced development, resource depletion, and environmental degradation, while creating unprecedented material wealth since the industrial revolution. For this consideration, the international community has been seeking a global solution to environmental and development issues, from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm to “Rio +20″ Summit and from the Declaration on the Human Environment to The Future We Want.

China, the world’s largest developing country, is also experiencing unprecedented environmental challenges during the fast economic expansion. Environmental issues that occurred to developed countries towards industrialization in 100-200 years have exposed themselves in China in 30 years and show remarkable structural, compression, and complex features. New environmental issues become increasingly prominent before old ones are solved. Generally, the country faces more complex and difficult environmental issues than any other in the world.

As a responsible country, China has always followed the national strategy of sustainable development. It has made the overall layout of development integrating ecological, economic, political, social, and cultural aspects, and envisages the vision of a beautiful country. Ecological civilization philosophy and strategy is a major achievement of the Chinese Government in creative response to the relationship between economic development and environmental issues, but also the localization and escalation of sustainable development. To push ahead the ecological progress, Chinese Prime Minister highlighted in the Government Work Report this year that the Chinese Government will resolutely declare war against pollution and fight it with the same determination we battled poverty.

In China, the newly revised Environmental Protection Law marks a milestone in the environmental protection history with the adoption by the legislature on April 24, 2014. It maximizes the cohesion and absorption of consensus in all aspects and breaks through difficulties in promoting the green development model based on environmental carrying capacity and promoting the modern multi-party environmental governance system. For example, the law clearly defines the concepts of ecological civilization construction and sustainable development, and requires the establishment of environmental and public health monitoring and evaluation system and the rights of citizens to have access to environmental information, participation and supervision. Meanwhile, to address outstanding environmental problems threatening human health and improve environmental quality as soon as possible, the Chinese Government directs the attention to air, water and soil pollution prevention and control in the “resolute war against pollution”. It has formulated and implemented in depth the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution and is stepping up the preparation of Clean Water Action Plan and the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution, which highlights the firm determination to control pollution, improve environmental quality, and protect the health of the people.

Looking back, the international community has exerted massive efforts to address environmental issues, but expect for a few ones, the overall situation is deteriorating. Biodiversity loss, climate change, water crisis, chemical pollution, and land degradation have not been effectively resolved. In most developing countries, the deterioration of environmental quality is exacerbated by population expansion, industrialization, and urbanization, as well as transfer of pollution from developed countries, adding difficulty in control.

Looking ahead, we expect a green and prosperous world which is free from the excessive requests and ravages of humanity and strikes a harmonious balance of economic, social and environmental development.  This should be the long-term vision of efforts to face environmental challenges and promote green development.

It necessitates a sound system for international environmental governance with the concerted efforts of all nations. In this respect, the international community should strengthen cooperation, consensus and mutual trust. United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) should fully play its leadership role in the field of environment, such as improving instruction, coordination and implementation capacity, strengthening the voice and decision of developing countries, removing barriers in capital, technique and capacity building in developing countries, and forging new partnerships with international organizations, governments and the public.

It requires the thought of fair, just, open, and inclusive development. Nations should have the courage to take joint responsibility for protecting the earth, but also face the objective reality of development stage and levels, and comply with the Rio principles, in particular common but differentiated responsibilities. Developing countries should develop and implement sustainable development strategies based on national realties, while developed countries should fulfill the commitments by changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and assisting developing countries to build up capacity for sustainable development.

It needs to set reasonable and feasible goals of sustainable development. In relation to the direction of future environment and development around the world, these objectives should help developing countries to achieve their development goals with full consideration to their development stages and difficulties, and drive ahead the common progress of all countries. UNEP should provide scientific support for environmental goals and act a coordinating role in the implementation, so as to effectively help developing countries to build up capacity and accomplish the goals.

As the specific initiatives to implement results of the “Rio +20″ Summit, UNEP UNEA will draw a new green blueprint for the world. I look forward to this meeting fruitful. China would like to strengthen cooperation with UNEP, share opportunities and face challenges with countries around the world on green development, environmental governance capacity, and international environmental cooperation, and write a new chapter for global environment and development.

Any opinions Expressed in "Executive Perspectives" are those of external parties and not those of Thomson Reuters.

Topics

Climate and Energy, Corporate Governance, Executive Perspective

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