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Report on China's Environmental Scientific and Technological Research, Development and Trainning by Working Group on Scientific Research, Technology Development and Training

2008-02-02author:Sun Honglie, Osayuki Yokoyamasource:


  The open policy of the People's Republic of China has led to a rapid acceleration of its economic growth. Furthermore, the Government of China has set itself the target of quadrupling of national income in the next decade. However, this high economic growth is being accompanied by widespread and severe environmental degradation in both rural and urban areas with increasing pollution of air, water and land.

  In order to attain sustainable development, it is essential to prevent pollution and to remedy environmental degradation. If present trends are continued, economic growth will eventually be slowed down. In addition to environmental degradation within China, global change has emerged as an important issue both nationally and globally. If we continue economic growth without serious efforts to improve production patterns, social structures and to control population growth, natural resources will be seriously depleted, leading to further global change and even putting human survival in some countries or regions into jeopardy. Improvements in scientific research, technology development and training can play a vital role in helping China towards sustainable development.

  In order to find a path for China to attain sustainable development, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environmental and Development (CCICED) h as been established and has set up a number of working groups to help to carry out its work. This is the first report of Working Group III on Scientific Research, Technology Development, and Training in environment and development.

  The Working Group held its first meeting in Beijing 2-4 March 1993 and considered the three papers which are attached to this report as annexes 2, 3 and 4. The membership of the Working Group is provided in annex 1. The thrust of the discussion was that China must achieve economic growth without accompanying environmental degradation not only to ensure the well-being of its own people, but also to contribute its share to the solution of global problems. In order to achieve its planned economic growth, China should learn from the mistakes of the more industrialized countries, and also develop new technological pathways for sustainable development from which other can learn.

  This report provides an overview of the current status of China's environment and development with an assessment of scientific research, technology development and environmental education. It also provides initial recommendations of the Working Group and a proposed agenda for its own future work.



  China has entered a stage of high speed economic growth. In the 1990s its economy will grow at an annual rate of more than 6%, and place increasing pressure on the environment. Although the Chinese Government pays great attention to environment protection, which is a basic component of state policy, China's sustainable development will still face severe challenges from population growth, resources depletion and environmental degradation unless further steps are taken.

  2.1 China's Population Continues to Swell

  Since the 1950s China has entered a period of rapid population growth. The population rose from 540 million in 1949, to 1. 17 billion in 1992,i. e. 1, 8% natural growth rate per year. China's total population is expected to reach 1. 5 billion by the year 2030 with the total working age population of 1 billion and the elderly population of 300 million. Rapid population growth not only poses a heavy burden on economy, that is, long-term problem of employment creation, population aging and the costs of expanding education, but also on the ecosystem.

  2.2 China's Per Capita Resources Will Continue to Decline with Further Degradation of Ecosystems

  The contradiction between population growth and fixed natural resources has been a major problem in China's history, as it is today. On one hand, with the growth of population in China, per capita resources continue to decline and major resources (cultivated land, water, iron ore and energy) to only 1/2-1/3 of the world average. On the other hand, with income growth and irrational use of resources, per capita consumption of natural resources is rising and ecosystems are suffering from increased damage by soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and overgrazing of grassland.

  2.3 Environmental Pollution Spreads Rapidly

  China's environment has to support its large population and production technique s generate large amount of pollutants. In 1990, the total emission of urban waste gases was 8,500 billion cubic meters, and that of sulphur dioxide was 14.95 million tons. The discharge of waste water was 35.4 billion tons. Of the 94 rivers running through cities that have been evaluated, 65 are polluted in varying degrees, with nitrogen, volatile phenols and oxygen-consuming organic matter as the major pollutants. The quantity of industrial solid wastes produced was 580 mill ion tons, giving a cumulative total of industrial solid wastes of 6. 48 billion tons. Moreover, as township industry is rapidly developing, industrial pollution is spreading from urban to rural areas. Because of the increasing emphasis give n to rural industrialization, industrial pollution is consequently the most serious environmental problem in China.

  The environmental problems have become a limiting factor on economic growth (substantiate with NEPA data). It is essential to strengthen environmental protection, especially environmental science research, technology development and education. Given the shortage of funds and suitably qualified people, China faces the difficult task of setting priorities for environmental science research and technology development.




  3.1 Research in Environmental Sciences

  3.1.1 The current situation in China's environmental research

  China started late in its research in the environmental sciences. Meaningful research projects started at the beginning of the 1970s, first with a survey of pollution sources and then the study of the technology for controlling industrial pollution sources. Through 20 years of efforts, a number of valuable results have been achieved. The research in the protection of environment has developed from only technology for controlling industrial wastes to comprehensive measures from the control of pollution sources to regional comprehensive control, from the passive purification of pollutants to clean technology and making pollutants re sources, and from pollution prevention and control to the protection of natural ecosystem and construction of environment.

  China has established a fairly complete environment research system, including the state environmental science and technology center; the scientific research organizations under the ministries and commissions of the State Council; the Chine se Academy of Sciences and the environmental research organizations of institutions of higher learning and the environment research organization of various provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. In 1990, there were about 200,000 people engaged in environmental science research and technology development. From 1978 to 1986, the expenditure of the state on research projects in environment al protection totalled 57,458,500 RMB yuan. The investment in environmental science research accounts for 0.7% of the total investment in scientific research in China.

  3.1.2 Problems of environmental scientific research

  (1) The environmental research system has been divided up by different departments, with each holding on to its own areas. This resulted in the scattering of re search strength. The system is managed separately by different department according to plan and there is a lack of coordination and information exchange among different departments. The plans worked out by different departments lack inter-connection and there is no clear division of labor. Due to the lack of an overall long-term development program and detailed implementation rules, the interests o f different departments have resulted in the duplication of research projects and in the failure to choose best researchers, making it difficult to ensure the quality of research achievements.

  (2) The current environmental research management policies have divorced research from technology development. Due to the factors of management and policies, there has been no organic connection when determining research subjects between the need of the state for environmental technology. There is a lack of priority in the choice of research projects and the accounts for why there had not been much breakthrough in key technology. Under the precondition of the limited amount o f funds, the research achievements, as they are, cannot serve for economic construction.

  (3) The funds for environmental research are insufficient and there is a lack of drive for the application of research achievements. Because there is no sufficient money, the research equipment is backward and in urgent need of renewal and there are no enough research projects to occupy all the researchers. As a result, the rank of researchers is extremely unstable. In addition, the lack of funds is also the key to the divorce between basic research and technology development. Many research achievements and technology cannot be brought into the stage of production and application for lack of intermediate experiments. This makes it difficult to achieve the objective of pollution control.

  (4) There is also a lack of institutional mechanisms for transferring and transforming good research into practical developments by the pollution control equipment industry.

  3.2 Environmental Protection Industry

  3.2.1 Status quo of environmental protection industry

  Environmental protection industry is a general term for a wide range of activities including technology application, product manufacture and marketing, natural resource management, information services, and environmental engineering facilities for the prevention and control of environmental pollution, improvement of ecological environment and rational utilization of natural resources.

  China's environmental protection industry started in the early 1970's and has ma de significant progress in some areas. However, it still remains under-developed in other respects, not only in terms of its weak foundation, but also the uneven development of various enterprises in the structure and rather large gap compared with advanced countries in both scientific and technological capabilities as well as economic, social and environmental benefits.

  3.2.2 Problems in the development of environmental protection industry

  There are still some urgent problems to be solved in order to speed up the development of environmental protection industry:

  (1) lack of unified management and coordination within the industry;

  (2) low quality with unstable characteristic of its products and irrational layout of its structure;

  (3) low technological level and few key enterprises;

  (4) chaotic market of its products. Necessary products are not adequate, while unnecessaries are overstocked; even some ordinary treatment equipment has to be imported from abroad.

  At present, there still exists the problem of weak technical force, which limits the development of environmental protection industry.

  The scientific and technological research work in China develops very fast in the domain of pollution control, preservation of ecological equilibrium and enforcement of environment management. However, for a long time the problem of research divorced from application for production has not been solved basically, due to emphasis on scientific research and neglect of applicability. As a result, rapid popularization and application of many scientific and technological achievements of low input, high output and practical value become impossible. The slow progress of technological exploitation for pollution control in China also affects the rise of entire technological level of environmental protection.

  3.3 Education and Training

  A qualified "corps" of environmental scientists, engineers and managers is essential for implementing sustainable development policies in China. Environmental protection can only succeed when all the people are aware of the importance of the environment and actively participate in the work of environmental protection. Strengthening environmental education is fundamental to sustainable development.

  3.3.1 In China, environmental education for specialists and technical workers in the field of environmental protection is carried out in the following ways:

  (1) Training environmental specialists through college and/or university education.

  There are currently 79 universities (or colleges) offering 15 types of majors related to environmental protection, including environmental chemistry, biology, ecology, environmental engineering etc.. There are 107 departments of universities or other institutions which offer Master's programs in 21 fields related to environmental protection; and 38 departments or institutions which grant Ph. D's in 14 fields. Together these institutions produce 20000 graduates at all levels. These specialists have made a solid contribution to environmental protection in China in the past 20 years.

  (2) Training professional staff in environmental protection through vocational education.

  There are over 40 polytechnic schools and 140 secondary vocational schools in China which have trained a number of mid-level staff for different departments of environmental protection.

  (3) Training for working cadres through short courses and other measures.

  The Cadre's College on Environmental Protection is a specialised college for training in environmental protection under the guidance of NEPA. NEPA has also established a training center at Tongji University. Many training courses have been organized by the local EPA in provinces and cities as well. The principles of cadre education are: "Study what you do, make up what you lack;" "combine on the job study with off the job study."

  3.3.2 Promotion of public awareness of environmental protection in China has bee n achieved through the following measures:

  (1) Using newspaper, television, radio media and publications for distributing knowledge on environmental protection.

  (2) Giving courses and lectures to people, especially to decision makers for speeding up the course of environmental protection.

  (3) Carrying out environmental education in primary and middle school for raisin g the awareness on environment of young generation.

  3.3.3 All these efforts have made positive contribution to the undertaking of environmental protection in China. However, many problems remain in environmental education in China.

  (1) The fund for environmental education is not adequate and the quality of specialised environmental education could be further improved. Training programs, teaching materials, conditions of the school and the level of the teacher training could all be improved for meeting the requirements of environmental protection in China.

  (2) The level of public awareness and public participation in environmental protection in China is weak (including the awareness of some decision makers). Environmental education in primary and middle schools is far from ideal and should be strengthened.

  (3) Environmental consciousness in rural areas and especially that of women is insufficient and better understanding should be promoted.


  4.1 Scientific Research

  4.1.1 If China wishes to make its present considerable economic development sustainable, it is necessary to invest a higher percentage of CNP in the building up and the operation of a R&D infrastructure that make it possible to develop the new industrial and agriculture processes (clean technologies, recycling processes etc.) that are required for the sustainable use of energy, materials and other resources. If this is not done, industrial and agricultural growth will be driven by the demand for short term gains and the mistakes made by industrialized countries by using environmentally unsound technologies will be repeated. China possesses a huge reservoir of potential research talents that is now only partially exploited. It has, therefore, an unique chance to develop through its own R & D and its own innovative approaches to sustainable industry, agriculture and resource management.

  4.1.2 If China wishes to develop its own pathways towards a sustainable future, it is necessary to make a firm financial commitment. In addition a long term (25 years) strategy for science must be formulate that has sufficient priority status among other multi-year plans to safeguard its continuity. Such a master plan should comprise also short and medium term plans and have built-in mechanism for evaluation by peer groups consisting of Chinese and foreign experts.

  4.1.3 In order to achieve innovative technology development, it will necessary to strengthen the ties between scientific research and industrial enterprises, large and small, Better integration of scientific research and technology development should be pursued by:

  (1) reform of the scientific R & D system;

  (2) increasing research carried out in industry itself;

  (3) enabling scientific research institutes and universities to work on problems identified by industry.

  4.1.4 In order to expand Chinas scientific research capacity both quantitatively and qualitatively, it will be necessary to make scientific research attractive to the best young talents as an exciting and challenging vocation as well as a rewarding career. This should be done by:

  (1) raising the status of science and scientists in society;

  (2) improving salary systems, career opportunities and other economic rewards;

  (3) increasing professional support systems by improving laboratories, equipment s, libraries, etc.;

  (4) encouraging the return of migrant graduates.

  4.1.5 Modern scientific research has a strong international dimension. Through rapid interaction of scientists and data exchange by modern communication methods, scientists are now sharing their results on a worldwide bases with their peers and thus achieve synergism in collaborative efforts that lead to impressive results. At the same time, serious world problems, e.g. in the area of global change c an only be solved by international cooperation in which every country participates according to capacity. In order to promote the international dimension of China 's scientific research, it is recommended to:

  (1) increase opportunities for Chinese scientists and engineers to work in institutes and enterprises overseas (N/S, S/S);

  (2) increase opportunities for foreign students and experts to work in China;

  (3) further strengthen China's participation in international global change research programs like world climate research program and the IGBP.

  4.2 Technology Development

  Although the following are presented as separate recommendations, many of them have to be integrated through parallel or sequential actions if the full benefits are to be achieved.

  4.2.1 Strengthen the institutional mechanisms for integrating environmental concerns into sectoral policies.

  4.2.2 Give priority to the development or introduction of technologies for air and water pollution control in urban areas, and soil erosion and water pollution control in rural areas. Particular emphasis should be given to clean technologies for coal use. and to complementary actions for raising energy use efficiency.

  4.2.3 China should concentrate its scientific and financial resources on those urgent problems for which no satisfactory solutions exit.

  4.2.4 Where low cost and technically appropriate pollution control equipment or clean technologies exist outside China, the emphasis should be on obtaining these through favourable licensing agreements, and adapting them to local needs.

  4.2.5 China should grasp the great opportunity it has to benefit from technological "leap-frogging" by giving priority to the introduction or development of clean process technologies that both minimize solid waste production, emissions to the air or discharges to water, and increase resources use efficiency so as to raise productivity and lower costs of production.

  4.2.6 In general, "end-of-pipe" solutions for industrial pollution control should only by adopted where appropriate clean technologies do not exist, are too expensive, or the feasible rates of introduction are too slow.

  4.2.7 Special attention should be given to the need for efficient, low cost pollution control or abatement technologies for small enterprises and townships.

  4.2.8 The proceeding recommendations should be complemented by coordinated measures to:

  (1) raise the incentives to introduce pollution control through suitable charges for waste disposal and regulations to enforce appropriate environmental quality standards;

  (2) enhance the integration of research and technology development;

  (3) develop performance standards and quality control procedures for pollution control equipment;

  (4) examine ways of promoting best technical means;

  (5) establish centres for spreading awareness of available technologies and their benefits.

  4.2.9 Increase investment in the pollution control industries by the introduction of development grants for key technologies.

  4.2.10 Study the experience of other countries in the stimulation of the pollution control industry and of clean technologies.

  4.3 Training and Education

  4.3.1 Education is a key engine of economic development, and environmental education is fundamental to sustainable development. The message of rational use of natural resources and control of environmental pollution should become a part of e very Chinese citizen's life and work ethic. This requires a national educational campaign, throughout the formal educational system, the workforce, and all communities.

  China may wish to consider mounting such a national educational campaign to show its students and citizens that environmental sustainability is the basis of economic and social growth, and that a clean and healthy environment is the right and responsibility of every citizen.

  4.3.2 Environmental education should pay attention to both theoretical concepts and their practical application. It should emphasize the links between environmental quality, human health, economic efficiency and productivity. It is important that the economic and social benefits of environmental quality be an integral part of environmental education at all levels.

  4. 3. 3 Environmental education (or "Sustainable development studies") should be a compulsory component in primary, middle and high schools as well as in university education. This will require additional and sustained funding to develop and update curricula and materials.

  4.3.4 Training trainers and re-educating teachers is a necessary first step in revitalising environmental education in China. The goal should be to attract the brightest and best minds to become teachers, through both high quality training and adequate salaries and working conditions.

  4.3.5 A review of the curriculum content is recommended with special attention to:

  (1) the updating of curricula to include the latest scientific findings;

  (2) interdisciplinary courses which examine the linkages between environmental quality and environmental economics, law, management and health.

  4.3.6 An assessment of the numbers of environmental specialists and technicians being trained at different levels in relation to China's needs over the next decade is recommended, as an important input to resource planning for educational policy.

  4.3.7 More international exchange of both students and teachers, and environment al managers is recommended in order for China to adapt the best practice internationally to its own needs. Further support to Chinese students to participate in international environmental science programs, such as those in Global Change Research, is recommended.

  4.3.8 Cross-training, or the provision of short courses in environmental studies to professionals, managers and local leasers is recommended. They are making the decisions today which affect the environmental quality of tomorrow. Key targets for such training are administrators in key government departments of Finance, Planning, Agriculture, Industry and Transportation; and the managers of industries and small and medium enterprises, as well as farmers and local mayors. Experience from other countries may be useful in this area of training.

  4.3.9 In the longer term, information support networks and decision tools, could be developed to help the managers of small enterprises and mayors, include environmental considerations in their plans and decisions, and to share experiences across China. This will depend on the development of information networks and data banks which are interactive and user-friendly.

  4.3.10 Special attention should be paid to women's role in environmental education and environmental health, and the active involvement of the National Women's Union and grassroots womens' groups should be sought.

  4.3.11 Environmental education and awareness to reach all Chinese people through out all the rural areas is an important goal. In this, the expanded use of mass media and popular education will be vital. Students, workers and farmers as well as grass roots organizations, and rural school can also become actively involved in sustainable development through local" green campaigns" and in monitoring environmental problems through scientifically designed environmental observation systems. Again, the experience of other countries may be useful.



  Three proposals are put forward for consideration by the Council:

  (1) assessment of the experience of other countries in the development and promotion of clean technologies;

  (2) examination of the implications of global warming for scientific research, technology development and training in China;

  (3) research, technology development for improved natural resources management.


  Membership of Working Group III, CCICED

  Scientific Research, Technology Development, & Training

  Chinese Members:

  Prof. Sun Honglie (Chairman)

  Commission for Integrated Survey of Natural Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), P.O. Box 767, Beijing 100101, China

  Tel: 86-1-4914628 (O), 86-1-2552012 (H)

  Fax: 86-1-8511095

  Prof. Qian Yi

  Dept. of Environmental Engineering, Qinghus University, Beijing 100084, China

  Tel: 86-1-2595684 (O), 86-1-2594453 (O)

  Prof. Liu Hongliang

  China Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing 100012, China

  The: 86-1-4252255 (O), 86-1-4915505 (O)

  Prof. Fu Zongbin

  Institute of Atmospherics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 10029, China

  Tel: 86-1-2562458 (O), 86-1-2541506 (H)

  Dr. Wang Yi

  The Center for Environment Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100 080, China

  Tel: 86-1-2561872 (O), 86-1-4226580 (H)

  International Members:

  Dr. Osayuki Yokoyama (Co-Chairman)

  National Institute for Resources & Environment of Japan, 16-3, Onogawa, Tukuba-shi, Ibaraki 305, Japan

  Tel: 81-298-58-8101

  Fax: 81-298-58-8118

  Dr. Jan Willem Maurits La Riviere

  Infrastructure Hydraulics Environment, Westvest 7, P.O.Box 3015, 2601 DA DELFT, The Netherlands

  Tel: 31-15-151715

  Fax: 31-15-122921

  Dr. David Norse

  Overseas Development Institute, Regent's College, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London NW14N5, United Kingdom

  Tel: 44-71-487-7413

  Fax: 44-71-487-7590

  Dr. Anne Whyte

  International Development Research Centre, P.O.Box 8500, Ottawa, K1G3H9, Canada

  Tel: 1-613-236-6163

  Fax: 1-613-238-7230

  Assistants to Chairman Sun Honglie:

  Mr. Zhao Yongren

  Bureau to International Cooperation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100864, China

  Tel: 86-1-3297538 (O), 86-1-8355888, ext. 7 (H)

  Fax: 86-1-8511095

  Mr. Lu Yazhou

  Bureau for Coordination Development of Nature and Society, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100864, China

  Tel: 86-1-3297536 (O), 86-1-4912613 (H)

  Fax: 86-1-8511095

  Assistants to Co-Chairman Osayuki Yokoyama

  Mr. Katsuo Seiki

  Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute, No. 33 Mori Bldg, 3-8- 21 Torannomon, Minatoku, Tokyo, 105 Japan

  Tel: 81-3-3435-8800

  Fax: 81-3-3435-8810

  Mr. Yasuhiko Ishida

  Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute, No. 33 Mori Bldg, 105 Japan

  Tel: 81-3-3435-8800

  Fax: 81-3-3435-8810

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