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Promoting the Historic Transformation and Realizing the Comprehensive, Balanced and Sustainable Development (Zhou Shengxian)


  Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

  Good morning.

  First of all, please allow me, on behalf of the State Environmental Protection Administration, to extend warm welcome to all friends attending the 5th Meeting of the 3rd Phase of China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED).

  Premier Wen Jiabao met with International Council Members yesterday, and Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan made an opening address at the Annual General Meeting as CCICED Chairman. All these fully indicate that the Chinese government attaches importance to environment and development cause and speaks highly of the important role of CCICED.

  As all the friends presented here are very concerned about China's environmental protection progress since the previous AGM, now I'd like to give a brief introduction on it.

  The Chinese government has established environmental protection as one of its fundamental national policies, taken sustainable development as one of the basic strategies and the improvement of environment as an important objective for the development of a Xiaokang Society in an all-round way. It has also put forward such key strategies as the establishment and implementation of scientific outlook on development and development of socialist harmonious society, adopted a number of major policies and measures to promote the balanced development of economy, society and the environment.

  In order to strengthen environmental protection work in a new era, the Chinese government has issued the Decision on Further Enhancing Environmental Protection and held the 6th National Conference on Environmental Protection, which further clarifies the goals, tasks, policies and measures on environmental protection for the next stage. Premier Wen Jiabao stressed at the Conference that the key of doing a good job in environmental protection under the new situation lies in the speeding up of achievements in the "Three transformations", 1) the transformation from emphasizing economic growth and neglecting environmental protection to paying equal attention to both, taking the improvement of environmental protection as the crucial steps to adjust economic structure and shift economic growth mode, and seeking for development in the efforts to protect the environment; 2) the transformation from environmental protection lagging behind economic development to synchronization of the two, managing to pay off more old debts without creating new environmental problems. We will change the situation of "treatment after pollution or environmental damages going side by side with treatment"; 3) the transformation from protecting the environment mainly by administrative approaches to solving environmental problems through the combination of legal, economic, technical and necessary administrative means. We will follow economic and natural rules self-consciously so as to improve environmental protection work.

  The "Three transformations" is an important strategic policy that is proposed on the basis of the absorption of the lessons and experience of developed countries in environmental protection and in-depth analysis of the new situation confronting China on environment and development and from a strategic height of the overall economic and social development and the long-term national development. The implementation of the "Three transformations" will certainly lead to well integration of China's economy and environment and fundamental refine of the relationship between the two. It is the strategic, directional and historic transformations, which is not only conducive to long-term development of the Chinese nation, but also makes great contribution to global environmental protection. It is a milestone signifying that China's environmental protection work has entered into a new era where environmental protection can optimize economic growth. In this new era, the major goal is to build an environment-friendly society, the main task is to accelerate the historic transformations, the general idea is to enable multi-dimensional progress with crucial breakthroughs, and the chief measures are to pay close attention to the implementation, down-to-earth work, details and grassroots level work.

  In order to fulfill the historic transformations, the Chinese government identifies the target of achieving 7.5% of annual average economic growth rate during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan period, and imposes compulsory indicators on energy conservation and pollution alleviation. It is expected that by the year of 2010, the energy consumption per unit GDP will cut down by 20% or so compared with 2005, the total discharge amount of major pollutants will reduce by 10%. The efforts over the next five years will result in improved environmental quality in major regions and cities and basic control of degradation trend of ecological environment.

  To this end, the Chinese government identifies the following seven major tasks for environmental protection: first, intensify water pollution prevention with the emphasis on drinking water safety and environmental treatment of major watersheds; second, enhance urban environmental protection focusing on pollution prevention and control; third, promote the control of air pollution by mainly cutting down the total emissions of SO2; fourth, strengthen rural environmental protection focusing on prevention and control of soil pollution; fifth, upgrade ecological conservation highlighting the harmony between man and nature; sixth, ensure nuclear and radiation environmental safety by focusing on the supervision and management of nuclear facilities and radioactive sources; seventh, facilitate the settlement of striking environmental problems at present mainly through the implementation of national key environmental projects. Accordingly, we have defined the general idea of driving up the progress in full scale with crucial breakthroughs, putting the prevention and control of water, air and soil pollution at the first place and giving top priority to safeguarding drinking water safety for the public.

  This year marks the beginning of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan period, and the Chinese government has made arrangements for the prevention and control of air, water and soil pollution as well as other important work. As entrusted by the State Council, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has already signed target-hitting responsibility documents on the reduction of major pollutants with 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government as well as six big electric power corporations including China Huaneng Group. Each province will allocate the targets on pollutant reduction down to all local authorities like city and county and major polluting enterprise and will implement strict target-hitting assessment system and accounting system. The Chinese government takes environmental access as an important tool to macro control, rigorously implements EIA system and streamlines a number of construction projects that violate related environmental laws and regulations. It has launched the special environmental campaigns on streamlining illegal polluting enterprises and safeguarding public health, phased out or shut down a group of enterprises causing heavy pollution and imposed severe sanctions on environmental infringements. It releases the study report on Green GDP Accounting for the first time and makes public the environmental costs triggered by economic growth. It has promulgated the Provisional Regulations on the Punishment of Behaviors against Laws and Disciplines on Environmental Protection, and issued the criteria on the conviction and sentencing of crimes in this regard so as to intensify law enforcement. It has organized and undertaken a number of activities on environmental publicity and education that are warmly welcomed by the public. As a result, the environmental awareness of the public has been improved remarkably. Some environmental problems have been addressed with certain improvement of the environmental quality of some areas after our efforts.

  However, we are also sober-minded that China still faces a rather serious environmental situation. Most urban sections of rivers are subject to pollution, three quarters of all the lakes across China experience eutrophication, one fifth of the cities suffer from heavy air pollution, and acid rain affects one third of the national territory. A total of 3.56 million km2 suffers from soil and water erosion, 1.74 million km2 of land is subject to desertification, and the problem of ecological damage remains prominent. During the first six months of this year, the total release of COD and SO2 grew by 3.7% and 4.2% respectively compared with the same period of last year, which reflects the problem of overheated investment in fixed-assets and extensive economic growth pattern leading to greater environmental pressure. Environmental problems have become the key factors impeding economic development and affecting social stability and harmony.

  To meet the objectives of environmental protection set out in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, we must adopt more practical and effective measures and make greater efforts in promoting the historic transformations.

  First, establish a comprehensive system on pollution prevention and control. Efforts should be made to extend environmental protection initiatives from the production sector to circulation, distribution, and consumption sector, and from the area of investment to foreign trade. We will forcefully promote clean production, encourage energy conservation and consumption reduction, prevent and respond to sudden environmental accidents and create a modern production system featuring low energy consumption and pollution. We will employ the circulation mode that is favorable to environmental protection, take initiative to treat pollution caused by railways, ships and other transport modes, ensure the safety in the transport and storage of hazardous chemicals, restrict the trade in heavily-polluting products, intensify resource recycling and set up a clean, safe and modern logistic system. We will vigorously advocate the environment-friendly consumption pattern, implement environmental labeling system, environmental certification system, green procurement system and the extended producer's responsibility system, promote the classification of refuse and the recycling of consumer goods and establish a green and economic consumption system. We will speed up the development of science and technology, upgrade environmental management level, earnestly overcome the S&T difficulties and enhance the capacity of self-independent innovations. In addition, we will identify "environmental access threshold" and develop corresponding industrial policies for different regions in line with the function area classification of optimized development, focused development, restricted development and banned development.

  Second, rigorously carry out the rule by environmental laws. We should speed up environmental legislation, cooperate with the legislative and legal bodies to amend the laws on the prevention and control of water and air pollution and develop the law on nature reserves. We should strictly implement the EIA system on construction projects and actively promote planning EIA. We should continue our special environmental campaigns on the crackdown of enterprises illegally discharge pollutants to safeguard public health and rigorously investigate and punish environmental infringements. With the application of legal tools, we will resolutely crack down environmental crimes. To improve the capacity of environmental supervision and regulation, we will, in line with the requirements of accurate and highly representative environmental data, adoption of scientific methods and prompt transmission, actively establish an advanced early-warning system on environmental monitoring. According to the requirements of clearly defined authority and responsibility, regulated behavior, strong supervision and highly effective operation, we will set up a sound law-enforcement supervision system in order to provide strong supports to the administration by law.

  Third, improve environmental and economic policies. We will in active cooperation with relevant departments improve economic adjustment policies conducive to environmental protection. Right now, pollution discharge fee imposed by the authority is low, we will gradually raise the level of pollution discharge fee standard for industries and enterprises, establish an incentive mechanism for enterprises to protect the environment and a regulatory mechanism to reduce pollution discharge. To the problem of poor collection of the fee on urban sewage treatment and refuse disposal, we will implement a fee collection system in this area in an all round way with an appropriate standard covering all treatment costs with a slim margin. For the issue of ecological rehabilitation of mines, we will create a new mechanism to restore the environment and ecology in mining areas and urge all mining enterprises to bear the environmental costs for resources development. For the issue of environment pricing, we will actively explore the possibility of charged gaining of pollutant discharge rights and change current situation under which the enterprises discharge the pollutants at will without any consideration of environmental costs.

  Forth, mobilize the whole society to protect the environment. We will make more efforts in training local decision-makers and heads of key enterprises on environmental protection, enhance their awareness in administration according to law and business operation in compliance with the law. We will intensify basic environmental education of the youngsters and undertake the publicity of popular science on environmental protection; release the information on environmental quality, environmental management and the environmental performance of enterprises and safeguard the rights of the public to learn, participate in and supervise environmental protection. For development plans and construction projects concerning the environmental rights and interests of the public, we will listen to public opinions and place ourselves under public supervision through public hearings, documentations and public notices. We will bring the role of social organizations into full play, create a platform for various social forces to participate in environmental protection and encourage the public to report and disclose various environmental infringements.

  Ladies and gentlemen,

  It is an important economic and social development goal of China to build a resource-saving and environment-friendly society. As a responsible developing country, China has made unremitting efforts in addressing environmental problems and obtained the understanding and supports from international communities. The Chinese government attaches great importance to international cooperation on environmental protection, actively introduces funds, state-of-art technologies, latest concepts and management experience from abroad, seriously implements international environmental conventions China has signed in and endeavors to make its due contributions to the cause of global environmental protection.

  The promotion of China's historic transformations in environmental protection requires the development of relevant economic policies and improvement of corresponding economic system. To enhance environmental protection calls for the innovation of applicable environmental technologies and the development of advanced environmental industry. In order to create a bright future for environmental protection, we need to carry out international cooperation and exchanges from a higher perspective, in a big vision and at a more profound level. CCICED has gathered a great number of renowned experts, scholars and high-profile governmental personages both at home and aboard and provided a platform for us to discuss important plan and strategies on sustainable development of China and the world. The Council has enjoyed 15-year glorious history. The continuous progress of China's environmental protection cause is the crystallization of the care and great wisdoms of each Council Member. CCICED is bound to have a brilliant future because the great initiative of historic transformations will provide a capacious stage on which every Member is able to develop his or her skills to the best. Opening a door, CCICED introduces the advanced concepts on sustainable development to China. Serving as a bridge, it builds a link of overseas technologies and funds to huge domestic demands. With trial work of CCICED, overseas management experience and environmental policies have combined with China's practice. It also helps to publicize the progress of China's environment and development cause to the world.

  On the occasion when the 3rd Phase of CCICED is about to complete its historic mission and new Phase on the horizon, on behalf of both SEPA and CCICED, I'd like to extend sincere thanks and high respects to all senior Members who have made outstanding contributions to China's environmental protection cause and warm welcome and whole-hearted congratulations to new comers of this Council. I sincerely hope that Members about to leave the Council will continue their attention and support to China's environment and development, serving as good teachers and helpful friends of Chinese environmental workers. I hope that the Council Members in its new Phase will actively propose recommendations and policies on China's sustainable development and make greater contributions to the cause of sustainable development of China.

  Let's join hands together and make concerted efforts in promoting the historic transformations of China's environmental protection.

  Thank you!

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