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China is in pursuit of a clean economy
(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-29 08:33

China, a developing country, has welcomed the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility" in implementing the Kyoto Protocol, which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol both benefit and reflect China's and most developing countries' position.

But how long can this favorable situation last? It depends.

During the last decade since Kyoto Protocol was signed, great changes have taken place both at home and abroad.

China is coming under mounting international pressure to cut emissions by larger margins. Research conducted by the International Panel on Climate Change drives home the gravity of the situation caused by the deteriorating climate.

But the most significant change of all is that China has begun to act on the concept of development on a scientific basis.

The Chinese government has long emphasized the need to reduce waste discharges, upgrade its mode of economic growth, boost environmental protection and promote sustainable development.

During the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), for instance, one of the government's top priorities was to switch the extensive-growth economic model to a resources-saving one.

In essence, the government's economic strategy today is the extension of its policy yesterday. The difference lies only in the forcefulness of its implementation and in its priority.

Now, the government strongly emphasizes the notion to put in practice scientific development, the need to build a resource-saving society, generate a circular economy and significantly reduce pollutant discharges.

The intensity of the emphasis has never been seen before in the country, which can be atributed to a host of profound factors.

During the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05) for example, the country was confronted by strong restrictions in resources and found itself in a development phase marked by high consumption of resources and energy.

This is bound to become a huge sticking point on China's policy on climate change.

The country's basic position on the issue remains unchanged, of course. What is different is that China is now pushing for greater energy conservation and a larger reduction of pollutant discharges much more forcefully, with the interests of global climate conditions being tied directly with domestic environmental protection policies.

However, new policy goals in this regard still need to be set.

Pollution output totals are an important gauge in evaluating a country's all-around power, its economic competitive edge in particular.

If the economy generates a lot of pollution, it could be deemed non-competitive, and out of touch with these modern times.

If the Chinese economy can emerge in two or three decades a clean and low-carbon economy, the country's overall strength will reach unprecedented competitive heights.

Against the big picture of countries rushing to adopt "clean technologies", is it possible for China to keep things as they were?

The answer is no.

If we fail to adopt "clean technologies", the economy will remain a low-grade one despite very large outputs.

China's rapid development in recent years has made some countries ill at ease, and yet the full power potential of the country is still far being realized.

There is considerable importance in presenting our good values to the world. A country's values are vitally important factors that helps a nation rise onto the world stage, and having a "clean economy" goes a long way.

In its dealing with the rest of the world, China should have wider strategic perspectives. This means that China's development direction ought to be oriented to having harmonious relationships with other countries; so it can become an integral part of the world community and play a significant role expected of a big, responsible country.

When China becomes really rich and powerful some day, it will do its utmost, as it already does now, to help other countries.

The author is vice-dean of the Environmental School of Renmin University of China

(China Daily 06/29/2007 page10)