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Opening Ceremony Speech by Huguette Labelle


  Vice Premier Wen, Professor Qu Geping, ViceChair Liu, Minister Xie, fellow Council members,Chinese and international experts and friends.

  This is a very special year for China as it celebrates the 50th anniversaries of the founding of the People's Republic of China. We are honored to be in Beijing at this time.

  At this, the 3rd meeting of the 2nd Phase of the CCICED which is also the last year of the Millennium, I would like to share with you a few thoughts on the past efforts and the future challenges of the Council.

  The Chinese government has embraced two critically important concepts which impact on China's future welfare and prosperity as well as that of the global community; they are: socialist market economy and sustainable development. The l0th Five Year Plan will, we understand, be built largely by integrating these concepts. To paraphrase the words of Premier Zhu Rongji last year, "economic development must not be pursued at the expense of the environment...and we must pursue sustainable development".

  In this regard, strong measure have been taken; including shutting down polluting factories, improving water conservancy, planting trees and cleaning up canals and streets. New cleaner technologies are being investigated, tested, and adopted in energy generation and alternative sources of energy. industrial processes, and agriculture production. That said, the Government has stated that it is facing daunting challenges and that more needs to be done.

  The Council is fortunate to have among its membership, on both the Chinese and international sides, individuals and organizations, expert in many relevant fields. Likewise, the research and recommendations of the Working Groups, past and present, address many key issues with which the Chinese government is grappling. These range from energy strategies, environmental economics, pollution control, trade to agriculture, biodiversity. transportation, and cleaner production.

  Of equal importance, the Council and its working groups have evolved from polite, but formal exchange of views towards a more collegial dialogue among partners focused upon practical recommendations and more recently, learning from demonstration projects. This is a very welcome and promising development.

  An important challenge for China, like other countries around the world, will be to engage all levels of government, the enterprise sector, and citizens in reducing environmental degradation. Those of us, who have visited the model environment cities of Xiamen and Dalian, have seen first hand the progress that can be made when all segments of society are engaged in a common purpose. Their success is due to visionary leadership, a strong enabling environment, a judicious combination of economic incentives and rigorous enforcement of regulations. The presence of senior officials from provinces and cities has been a welcome addition to our Council meetings.

  There is, I believe, a real opportunity for greater synergy and action between government, enterprises, and society at large. A task for the Council will be how we can best assist China to move towards this common purpose.

  Environmental policy was viewed in the past as simply a problem of pollution control. We have now moved to a more holistic understanding of environment. This includes the concept of ecological constructionthe need to protect and use resources in a sustainable way. The links between environment and economic development are also much better articulated in China than ever before. Sustainable development is now a central theme of the Chinese government. It has struck home that environment degradation contributes to poverty; and that it hampers economic growth, and therefore limits the possibilities for greater collective prosperity. That is way, central agencies are now trying to better integrate environmental consideration into overall development planning.

  Many factors have contributed to this change in the way environment is dealt with in China. I think that we can take pride in the fact that this Council has made its contribution.

  The preparation of the l0th 5-Year Plan gives us an opportunity to contribute further. It is an opportunity, but also a great responsibility.

  How should we respond? First and foremost with policy advice that is not only relevant and strategic, But also feasible and practical. We need to continue to move beyond generalitiesChina has already endorsed broad concepts and ideas; let us be specific, instrumental.

  And let us bear in mind that this 5 YearPlan will be based more than ever before on market principles ("socialist market economy"). Market forces, indeed, should improve the allocation of resources. At the same time, the Council may want to suggest the introduction of market incentives (such as pricing mechanisms) so that everyone, from factories to small individual farmers, find it in their interest to act in a way which is consistent with sustainable use of resources. But there may also be cases where market forces, in and of themselves, will fail to take into account some environmental costs; and here, the Council may be able to suggest ways and means to deal with these market failures, so as to protect the interests of the publicfor current and future generations.

  When I look around this table, I see an exceptional group of people. I see brain power. I see also people in positions of responsibility and influence, "movers and shakers", people with both the wisdom and the power to help China realize the goal of sustainable development.

  For international members of the Council, our particular responsibility is to provide our Chinese friends with access to international experience in matters of sustainable development. For Chinese members of the Council you bear an even greater responsibility. You must ensure that the recommendations that the Council puts forward are grounded in the reality of Chinathat they are relevant, feasible, and can be put into practice in the Chinese context. In addition. you are the ones who have responsibility to follow up with these recommendationsto make sure they are translated into policy, and into action. I think a central measure of the success of the Council is the extent to which policies are changed, and the extent to which they are applied. In the end, while much of our work may appear abstract at the policy level, we must make a difference in real lifein the factories, in the fields of the Loess Plateau, in the rivers of China, and ultimately in the wellbeing of people. As an aside, I would also add that policy is not only a topdown exercise. We should also learn from numerous experiences that are going on in Chinathey can inform policymaking. That link between policy and action is part of the rationale for pilot projects under the auspices of the Council.For this year's Council meeting, we have invited two distinguished individuals as keynote speakers, who will help us launch these discussions. Maurice Strong and Mi. Zhang Xinli of SDPC. The international members of the Council are honored to have been invited by the government of China to provide advice on such a vital question.Thank you

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