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Opening Ceremony Speech by Qu Geping


  Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  Just after the grand celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, we are here today to open the 3rd Meeting of Second Phase CCICED. Beijing today welcomes all of our international friends to attend this meeting with its festival warmth and splendor, with comfortable weather and flower blossoms. Recalling New China's history in the past five decades, in particular the two decades since the policy of reform and opening to the outside world was adopted, astonishing changes have taken place in China. A poor and weak country dominated by agriculture has been changed into a developing country with economic prosperity, social progress and a considerable scale of industrialization. The cause of environmental protection has likewise progressed from scratch to major development. In the past two decades, even as the Chinese economy grows at a high rate, the drastic degradation of the environmental quality of China has been avoided, and the state of environment in some regions has been even remarkably improved.

  Looking forward at the 21st century, by the middle of the next century, China will have basically achieved socialist modernization and its economic power will have reached the level of intermediately developed country, with another fifty years of hard work. By then the environmental quality of China will be fundamentally improved with the environmental pollution basically controlled and remarkable progress made in ecological construction. China will stand in the East of World as a country with strong economic power and beautiful environment.

  To achieve this goal, China is vigorously promoting the sustainable development strategy and integrating it with the whole process of modernization drive. The experience has proven that only by following the sustainable development strategy will the Chinese economy be able to grow in a sustained, rapid and sound way. Practice will definitely prove that only by sticking to the sustainable development strategy can China achieve the goal of building a strong and modern country by the middle of the next century, which is a dream of many generations of the Chinese people. 

  To achieve the sustainable development, first of all the role of government must be intensified. The government will commit to the implementation of the sustainable development strategy through legislation and enforcement, in particular the establishment of a supervisory mechanism. The National People's Congress has put on its agenda the Law of Environmental Impact Assessment, which is crucial for the implementation of the strategy of sustainable development. 

  China began to implement the rule of environmental impact assessment for construction projects twenty years ago. As a rule in the Law of Environmental Protection, it has been playing an important role. However, the existing rule of environmental impact assessment applies only to the individual construction projects, but not yet to major economic plans, development planning and economic policy with farreaching influence. Our historical experience shows that the environmental problems brought by a mistake in one economic plan or policy are far more serious than those by one improper construction project. In addition, the control of the former is more difficult than the latter and there is even less possibility for recovery. Therefore, following the approach of control at source of environmental pollution and ecological damages, EIA is a must for related economic policies and plans and, development planning. To adopt such macrolevel supervision as EIA for those plans, programs and policies is the key to ensuring the implementation of the strategy of sustainable development. This is why the legislation concerning EIA has been initiated.

  To achieve the sustainable development, the role of market is essential. China is now building a socialist market economy. It is undoubtedly a rare opportunity for utilizing economic incentives to exercise environment management and promote the sustainable development. We are more used to the "commandcontrol" approach for environmental management in the past than the market tools for environmental management. Now we need to make up this lesson by gradually learning how to manage the environment in the context of market economy.

  An overview of the situation in different countries indicates that there are the following economic incentives for environmental management.

  l First to identify clearly the ownership of various resources and separate the ownership right from the right to use; 

  l Secondly, to utilize the market mechanism to deploy the natural resources in order to increase the efficiency of utilization, and to establish the market for pollution trading; 

  l Thirdly, to utilize the taxation instruments such as pollution tax levies and resource tax; 

  l Fourthly, to establish a mechanism of fee collection, such as pollution levies and compensation for resources exploitation;

  l Fifthly, to utilize the financial and fiscal means, such as preferential loan to some environmental projects and financial subsidies; 

  l Sixthly, to establish the rule of compensation and the insurance mechanism for environmental damages; 

  l Seventh, to establish the rule of mortgage, and so on. 

  We are also gradually utilizing these instruments. For example, we plan to reform the current rule of pollution levies while revising the Law of Air Pollution Prevention and Control. The current practice of fees charged only for discharging the pollutants beyond the standards, will be changed into the practice of fees collected for the total amount of pollutants. That means that fees will be charged for the discharging of any amount of pollutants and fines given for the discharging of the pollutants beyond the standards. We plan to gradually move to the collection of environmental tax against the pollutant discharging.

  To achieve the sustainable development, the public participation must be encouraged. The public is the third force besides the government and the market. Without participation of the public, it is almost impossible to make the sustainable development happen. The forms of public participation can be diverse, such as mobilizing the public to participate directly in the pollution control. In addition, establishing a rule of public hearing for approving the projects likely to produce pollution, and the public influence of the market through their own consumption behavior and choice. In this way, it is possible to check various polluting production activities and the public refusal or sale of the securities of those polluting companies. I believe that as the public awareness increases, the width and depth of public participation will be even greater.

  Ladies and gentlemen, the environmental protection in China has had a thirty year history during which we have established a complete system of theory, rules and regulations, and during which, we have undertaken effective work in controlling the environmental pollution and improving the ecology. In the next century we continue as before, to learn and draw upon the advanced experience of other countries in the world; and to explore the ways of environmental protection with the Chinese characteristics, thus contributing to the environmental protection of China and the world.

  I wish complete success to the Third Meeting of CCICED Phase II.

  Thank you.

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