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Witness the Great Changes of the Enviroment and Development in China by Qu Geping


  This year is the first year of the new century as well as the beginning of the Tenth Five-Year Plan. At this moment, the Fifth Meeting of the second phase of CCICED is convened. This is the last meeting of the second phase of CCICED that will soon accomplish its grand mission. In the short period of five years, CCICED has made great and indelible contribution to the environment and development in China. I would like to express my profound gratitude to the participants present here today.

  As we ring in the new century and ring out the old, all sorts of feelings well up within me. The proposal of establishing CCICED was ratified by the State put forth jointly by Mr. Martin Lees of UK and me and after, I've participated in the whole process of the first and second phase of CCICED. During this period, Dr. Schneider from the Netherlands and I co-chaired the Pollution Prevention Working Group. In my 30 years of experiences of environmental career, the ten years' experience of CCICED is most unforgettable. I have been deeply impressed by the attention and support of the international community to the environmental protection in China.

  CCICED is a unique forum participated by elites around the world, including outstanding experts and scholars in the field of the environment and development. They meet with senior officials of the Chinese government regularly in order to discuss issues of the environment and development and offer recommendations for environmental protection in China. This is indeed a pioneering undertaking, indicative of the determination of the Chinese government to promote the process of democratic decision-making, as well as the global partnership approach in the field of the environment and development. Chinese government greatly values this forum. Mr. Song Jian, State Councilor was the first Chairman of the Organization and later on, Mr. Wen Jiabao, Vice Premier replaced him as Chairman. At each of the annual meetings of CCICED, the state leaders of the Chinese government meet with the members and listen to their advice. This is rare not only in China, but also in the whole world.

  Of the many advice and recommendations CCICED has offered in the past 10 years on the environment and development in China, many have been accepted and adopted by the Chinese government and relevant agencies and resulted in a series of practical actions. CCICED and its Working Groups have conducted a large amount of studies and analysis, and put forth a series of policy recommendations on comprehensive decision-making, energy and the environment, pollution prevention, natural eco-conservation, environmental economic policies, trade and the environment, cleaner production, and have carried out a series of demonstration projects of major influence jointly with the relevant departments and local governments. CCICED has become a key "Think Tank" in the field of the environment and development in China.

  As a forum and Think Tank, CCICED has strong influence, which stems from not only the fact that some of its concrete recommendations have been taken, but also of the impact of its sustainable development concept centering on the coordination of the environment and development on decision-making in this field. Recently, I reviewed the Recommendations put forth by the past annual meetings of CCICED and had deeper understanding of the concepts and strategies of integrating environmental protection with development. In recent years, as we have observed, these concepts and strategies have gone beyond "Think Tank's" discussion topics to practical actions and impacted the decision-making process. In ten years, CCICED has witnessed five great changes of utmost significance in the field of the environment and development in China.


  The first great change is from a basic state policy to a state strategy. In 1980s, the Chinese government made environmental protection a basic state policy; and in 1990s, the sustainable development was designated as the basic state development strategy. This indicates that the Chinese government has taken the concept of environmental friendly development as a guideline in practical work and devoted great efforts to protect the environment in the course of development and promoted the economic and social development through environmental protection. In the "Ninth Five-Year Plan of the National Economic and Social Development and the Outline of the Long-Term Targets of 2010"ratified by the fourth plenary session of the Eighth National People's Congress in 1996, sustainable development was designated for the first time as a key strategic measure in the middle and long term planning of the national economic and social development. It indicates that China abandons the traditional development strategy and embarks on the sustainable development way. In the Ninth Five-Year Plan period, from the central government on down to local governments and enterprises, the concept of sustainable development has been integrated into development plans. On the whole, the traditional development approaches are still dominant. However, recognition of the need for sustainable development marks a transition of strategic significance and with far-reaching influence on the future development.

  The second great change is from pollution prevention to ecological construction. In early 1970s, environmental protection in China started with pollution treatment. In the entire 1980s and early 1990s, the major work of environmental protection was still pollution prevention. Although great efforts were devoted to ecological construction, the intensity of the work was not enough. Ever since the mammoth flooding in the Yangtze River in 1998, Chinese government has recognized the urgency and necessity of ecological construction on a large scale, formulated the policy of emphasizing both pollution prevention and ecological construction and carried out a series of policies on ecological construction and conservation, such as forbidding the logging of natural forest at the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. The requirements of turning cultivated land back into lakes, forests and grasslands have been clearly made, and ecological recovery and construction have been identified as the top priorities in the Western Development Strategy. The policies of "turning the cultivated land back to forests (grasslands), closing hillsides to facilitate afforestation, replacing relief with grain and the individual contract system" have been formulated. The large-scaled campaign of the eco-environmental recovery and construction has been kicked off. This is unprecedented and marks a historical turning point in China's environmental protection.

  The third great change is from end-of-pipe treatment to source control. As to pollution prevention, China has moved from mere end-of-pipe treatment to strategic re-structuring of the national economy so as to limit the expansion of the polluting sectors at the source. In the Ninth Five-Year Plan period, based on the targets of the industrial structure optimization, improving the level and economic returns of agriculture, industry and services and the reasonable re-structuring of the allocation of productive forces, the central government has actively supported the development of the high tech sector and the tertiary industry, promoted normalization of the national economy and society, and made great efforts to limit and reduce industries with high resource consumption, serious pollution and backward technologies. 84,000 small-sized enterprises and a large number of small coal mines, iron and steel plants, chemical plants, glass plants, refineries, and coal-fired power plants have been phased out or closed down, thus reducing the damages economic development does to resources and the environment.

  The fourth great change is from point source treatment to regional environmental treatment. In the past, China carried out the policy of "The polluters are responsible for the treatment", mainly focusing on the point source prevention. Ever since 1990s, China has implemented the Three-Rivers, Three-Lakes, Two-Zones, One-Municipality and One-Sea project and taken comprehensive measures to conduct the environmental pollution treatment in river basins and regions. The large-scaled pollution treatment actions in key river basins and areas have effectively promoted pollution prevention in the entire country. The measures include the energy policy of "replacing coal with gas and electricity", improving the vehicle emission standards and planting trees and grass in cities and suburban areas to improve the urban air quality. The total pollution load control system and the pollution discharge fee policy have been introduced to encourage enterprises to meet pollution discharge standards and to stimulate the urban environmental infra-structure construction, which will improve the environmental quality in the river basins and regions. The large-scaled pollution treatment has laid a sound foundation for the fundamental improvement of the national environmental quality.


  The fifth great change is from the environmental management oriented by the administrative mandates to one guided by the laws and economic instruments. Since 1990s, in order to meet the demand of the democratic legislation and environmental protection, the central government has enhanced the building of a legal system for environmental protection, formulated Law on the Prevention of Solid Waste Pollution, Law on the Prevention of Ambient Noise Pollution, Law on Water and Soil Conservation, Law on Coal, Law of Energy Conservation, Law on Flood Prevention, Law on Earthquake Prevention and Disasters Mitigation, Law on Meteorology, Law of Seeds, and Law on Desertification Prevention; and amending Law on Water Pollution Prevention, Law on Air Pollution Prevention, Law on Marine Environmental Protection, Law on Forests, Law on Land Management and Law on Mineral Resources, thus preliminarily setting up a comprehensive legal system of environmental and resource conservation. These laws have legalized the policy requirements of sustainable development, clean production, comprehensive resource utilization and eco-environmental conservation. In the meantime, the governments at various levels and the relevant agencies have increased their awareness of protecting the environment according to laws and enhanced law enforcement in this regard; the public have begun to resort to legal means to protect their own environmental rights. Environmental protection in China is gradually fitting into the legal framework.

  In the new century, China still faces tough environmental challenges. With the continuous growth of the population and the economy, China will face in the coming 20-30 years, tougher pressure than most of the countries in the world concerning the stable supply of food, water and energy, eco-system degradation prevention and environmental pollution. In my opinion, the solution for China is to follow firmly the path of sustainable development. The prospects of the environment in China will mainly depend on our current choice and action. Therefore, the most urgent issue is to take more practical actions and try to control and solve the environmental pollution in ten years so as to recover and improve the environment. Once we face the environmental crisis in an active way, and turn the pressure and challenges into the driving force of creation and development, we will be able to make an excellent beginning, follow the right direction and create a sound environmental prospect for the future generations. I do hope that in the future, the new phase CCICED will keep on playing a significant role in offering advice on the environment and development in China and make greater contribution in this field.

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