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Green policies vital for healthy development
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-20 00:45

Popularizing and adopting new ideas in environmental policy-making is vital to sustain healthy development in the Chinese society and economy, a senior environment official says.

Otherwise, such good development strategies, dubbed by top officials as "scientific concepts of development," may simply descend into slogans, said Pan Yue, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

Pan called for speeding up research on and the implementation of green gross domestic product (GDP).

Green GDP is an amendment of normally accepted GDP calculations by deducting the costs of environmental factors occurring during economic development.

Some experts say that if environmental costs were deducted, China's average annual GDP growth during 1985 and 2000 would drop by about 2 percentage points.

Niu Wenyuan, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said while China has been one of the countries enjoying rapid economic growth, the country's economic achievements have been gained through high consumption of resources and ecological degradation.

"In the long run, such a way of development cannot last long,'' Niu said at a "green China'' forum held in Beijing in April.

With the new way of calculating GDP, environmental protection should naturally be included in the country's system for assessing officials' job performance, Pan said.

Items such as changes in air and water quality and the number of environmental complaints should be added to the standards for judging officials.

Government officials who seek only GDP growth at the cost of the environment should not be promoted, he said.

Feng Dongfang, a researcher with the Policy Research Centre, said to link officials with environmental protection is correct.

She said environmental protection is too small a part in the country's performance appraisal system.

Pan also mentioned that public participation in environmental protection should be ensured.

While the Chinese Government has done a lot of work in this regard, it must do more, he said.

According to the law on environmental impact assessment, which took effect last September, governmental bodies should hold hearings to solicit public opinion on development programmes that may cause damage to the environment before such programmes are approved.

Despite that, Pan said the role the general public plays in environmental protection still needs to be strengthened.

He also suggested an ecological compensation mechanisms be set up to showcase social fairness.

Rural residents consume less than urban ones, discharge fewer pollutants, and enjoy less environmental protection infrastructure, he explained.

Therefore, a fixed channel through which cities compensate rural regions for environmental damage should be established.

In a broader sense, similar mechanisms should be formulated between eastern regions and western ones, upper reaches and lower reaches of rivers, or developed countries and developing ones, he added.

Last but not least, Pan said the government should give priority to the development of new energy sources and a circular economy, while creating financial and preferential policies for environmental protection.

Xia Guang, director of the Policy Research Centre, hailed Pan's ideas.

But he said it will take time for them to become reality, because there is plenty of research work that remains to be done.

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