BIZCHINA> Energy and Environment
Back up stimulus with clean norms
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-02 09:12

Back up stimulus with clean norms
An industrial plant in Qingzhen city, Guizhou province, discharges smoke. Some local governments are degrade the environments in the name of maintaining stable economic growth. [China Daily]

Some Chinese local governments are in danger of speeding up environmental degradation in the name of maintaining stable economic growth while they have been urged to quickly launch investment projects to keep the economy humming.

A top-notch advisory council has given the warning to the central government, which was urgently asked to prevent the possibility.

The expert panel of China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development has submitted a suggestion package to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and listed local governments' poor environmental awareness as a "major risk".

"The central governments should strengthen inspections to prevent the local governments from taking risks of stabilizing economic growth at the cost of environmental protection," said the suggestion package, exclusively obtained by China Daily yesterday.

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The panel voiced its concern that some local governments are still holding the age-long mindset that higher economic growth is a priority despite the fact that a nationwide campaign to promote sustainable development and harmony has been ongoing for years.

During an interview with China Daily, the panel's member Daniel Dudek said Premier Wen Jiabao paid much attention to the panel's suggestions when he chaired a recent discussion with the foreign experts of the advisory body.

When meeting Dudek, chief economist of the US-based Environmental Defense Fund, and other experts at the panel, Wen said that the threat of a global recession should not shift China's focus from the long-term goals of energy conservation and emissions reduction.

Dudek cited Wen as saying: "The current financial crisis represents a golden opportunity for economic development and environmental protection."

Following Wen's assessment, the National Development and Reform Commission said recently that China will invest an additional 350 billion yuan ($50.80 billion) in environmental protection by the end of 2010 and ruled out the possibility of investing in energy-crunching and polluting industries.

"The increased and speedy investment has offered real stimulus for green industries and green jobs, if the government takes measures to combine near-run remedies and long-run goals together," Dudek said.

The economist said Chinese government should take more concrete actions to procure "green products" while implementing its 4-trillion-yuan economic stimulus plan. "That will shore up the confidence of green industry and create more jobs," Dudek said.

The panel has also warned that many signs have shown that globally, environmental protection is probably becoming the prey of rebuilding financial markets and stabilizing economic growth, which are undoubtedly the priorities of the world.

"While stabilizing economic growth, China should upgrade its economic structure, develop low-carbon economy and bolster international competitiveness," the panel suggested.

The panel asked China to make technological and policy preparations in the endeavor and when it drafts its 12th Five--Year Plan (2011-15), the goal of a low-carbon economy should be considered.

"The financial risk and economic downturns have triggered new thoughts and trends in China and they should be carefully evaluated," said Dudek. "But at the heart of them is sustainable development."

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