China Environmental News Digest

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

China on the right track toward green growth

(Xinhua)

Updated: 2007-03-16 19:57

BANGKOK -- Backed by a strong leadership, China is believed to be on the right track and expected to be a driving force for the developing Asia to make a shift toward a more sustainable and environment-friendly economic growth model, according to a top United Nations official for the region.

Kim Hak-Su, United Nations Under-Secretary General and the Executive Secretary of UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), voiced the organization's support and confidence of success for China's determination and latest moves to embrace a Green Growth model as desired by UNESCAP, in an interview with Xinhua on Thursday at the UNESCAP headquarters in Bangkok.

Mr. Kim flied to Beijing Friday to attend the China Development Forum 2007 (CDF), in which he will share a "Green Growth" blueprint proposed by UNESCAP for policy-makers of China, to echo the theme of the forum -- "China: Toward New Models of Economic Growth".

The CDF, an annual event sponsored by one of China's leading thinktanks Development Research Center of the State Council, will gather around 80 leading executives, academics, and senior government officials from China and abroad at the prestigious Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to have a high-end brainstorm.

The forum takes place right after the conclusion of the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Among the hot issues raised during the two-week meetings was resources conservation, reduction of emissions and pollutants.

The so-called "Green Growth" model, endorsed by a regional ministerial conference on environment and development in 2005, means to shift focus on "economic efficiency" of the economic growth pattern prevailing in our world today, which is based on market prices that do not reflect the ecological costs, towards " ecological efficiency", which emphasizes the efficiency of resource use and minimization of environmental damage, in order to achieve a sustainable economic and social development.

Kim said it is a most urgent task to discard the current "grow first, clean up later" mentality and to shift toward a green growth pattern for the Asian developing countries, which has seen a rapid economic growth rate in latest years, but on the base of high environmental cost and huge waste of resources which are already limited in face of higher population density.

Among them China was the most notable, maintaining an unprecedented 9-10 percent growth rate in more than two decades. That raised concerns about how long and in what way China could sustain this high growth.

According to Kim, the risk resides in that China's growth is more manufacture-oriented, with 53 percent of GDP deriving from manufacturing, which means China burdens higher ecological costs. "We have no doubt the Chinese government has adopted the concept of Green Growth, although it may bear another name in China, and we believe China's on the right track to do it," Kim said, pointing out that China has taken moves to address resources reservation and pollution deduction. UNESCAP would like to act as a reminder and offer some advice for the Chinese government to implement related measures.

The UNESCAP proposed five major policy tools to achieve Green Growth, including introduction of green tax, which uses pollution levels as taxing base while reducing income tax, investment on sustainable infrastructure such as resource-efficient public transport and utility services, promotion of sustainable consumption pattern and life-style, and promotion of green business.

The implementation of these measures can only be driven by a determined and powerful government. While a stable and strong leadership constitutes the biggest strength of China to enable the government to enforce the policy measures in local levels and to convince its citizens to change mentality about growth and their consumption patterns in long run.

Kim noted that he is happy to see that the Chinese government has already in last year announced six policy-direction towards a more sustainable growth model and listed resource reservation and environment protection as a major national policy in its "11th Five-Year Plan (2006 to 2010) for National Economic and Social Development". Among the important targets for the period are a reduction in energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent, and a reduction of emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent.

Kim said he has full confidence that China can fulfill these tasks and he hoped China can serve as a role model of Green Growth for other developing countries in the region to follow suit.

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