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Speech at the Opening Ceremony (Margaret Biggs)


Vice-Premier Li, Minister Zhou, Secretary General Zhu, Members of Council and Invited Guests,

  I am pleased once again to join you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of this dynamic and vital Council.

  We are meeting under particularly auspicious circumstances.

  It is a time of celebration—the 60th Anniversary Year of New China. On behalf of our international members, I congratulate the people of China and its leaders on their remarkable achievements made over this time. Especially the achievements on poverty reduction, the modernization of the economy and of China’s infrastructure and cities, and on China’s growing interest and participation in global affairs.

  It is also a time for reflecting on the success of China in steering its way towards rapid economic recovery from the effects of the global financial crisis and recession during this past year. I am encouraged that Chinese leaders have emphasized the important role of environment and development during this recovery period. As a consequence, China is now well positioned for future growth.

  The third matter on timing is the globally significant debate taking place through the Copenhagen climate change negotiations. This debate affects all of us, no matter what country we are from. And we know that it is an essential debate for setting in place action of significance for the future well-being of the planet and all its people. The outcomes will be significant to our global progress towards what China calls our future Ecological Civilization.

  CCICED, with its focus on international cooperation concerning environment and development, is an important institution of the new China. Indeed it is remarkable to note that on this, our 18th Annual General Meeting, the Council has been in existence for almost a third of the history of New China.

  Over that time span, Council members have observed the growing complexity of environment and development problems, the growing integration of environment and economy, and the globalization of environment issues far beyond what we might have contemplated two decades ago. This evolution has made the Council’s work ever more significant. And it has focused attention on mutual learning so that we now seek innovative solutions rather than simply transfer knowledge.

  This year’s theme of Energy, Environment and Development focuses attention on the need for new approaches to environment and economy. China, through its 11th Five-Year Plan, has moved far beyond “business as usual” on energy efficiency and environmental protection. Yet what will be needed in the coming years will be far more demanding, even while opening new paths for China’s prosperity and for environmental protection.

  President Hu Jintao spoke at the United Nations in September of a new commitment towards a low carbon economy, and, indeed, this approach is shared by the G20 nations. Our Task Force on Low Carbon Economy indicates that this is feasible, strategic and should be started quickly. A quick start will provide China with a competitive edge. A quick start also will ensure China is not locked into low energy productivity and environmentally unsound practices in its urban, rural and industrial development.

  During our meeting we will consider how China can move towards the Sustainable Use of Coal. There is a need to introduce best environment practices through the whole value chain from coal production to end uses for power, heat and chemical production. I am struck by the large number of initiatives China has already taken on advanced coal technologies. The challenge now is to spread these technologies into facilities throughout China. Excellent opportunities also exist for strengthened management and governance arrangements. Combined district heating and power generation systems is an example. Another is a green mining program to enhance safe, efficient and clean use of coal.

  We will be examining recommendations for a more comprehensive approach to environmental tax reform. This builds on past CCICED recommendations concerning expanded use of economic instruments to achieve environment and development objectives. Specifically, we will highlight the value an environmental tax system, including a national carbon tax, could have on sustainable consumption patterns in China. We will also need to consider the steps required to implement such a tax system successfully.

  My remarks have highlighted only some of the key points we should consider during these next few days. I am looking for three significant outcomes to these discussions.

  First, a clear understanding of how China can best reduce the environmental impacts of energy use while continuing its economic growth and development in ways that support poverty reduction and improved quality of life.

  Second, concrete means for transforming the challenges of energy and environment relationships into opportunities that will result in green growth and prosperity for China’s future. This will require the Council to give attention to technology, management and institutional innovation.

  And, third, how the people of China can participate in shaping this new future through their personal lifestyle choices and by influencing decisions on the design and operation of their communities. We need to focus attention on the information, infra-structure, and incentives that will assist these choices and decisions.

  Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the difficult choices that will be made during the development of the 12th Five-Year Plan. It is a historic moment for China to shift to-wards becoming a green economy, which Vice Premier Li Keqiang has indicated is a key priority. I hope that many of the ideas we will be discussing during this CCICED meeting will provide valuable inputs to this process.

  Dear friends and colleagues, thank you for your attention. I look forward to working with you over the coming days, and hope for a very successful outcome to the meeting.

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