Ambassador Yang Youming’s article on China’s environmental protection

H.E. Mr. Yang Youming, Chinese Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, wrote an article on China’s environmental protection for the Guardian, a major newspaper of Trinidad and Tobago.  The article was published in two parts on Jun 9th and 16th separately. Following is the full text of the article including editor’s introduction:

PART I 

In the first of this two-part series in our ongoing Cleaning Up The Mess Space, Yang Youming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China tells us how the world’s most populous state with over 1.3 billion citizens, is meeting the challenge of preserving its environment without compromising its development as the world’s fastest growing economy.

In recent years, China’s economic development has coincided with a period when the awareness of environmental protection around the globe is significantly growing. It is therefore inevitable for China to run into unprecedented challenges arising from the environmental issue. China has not dodged the issue. The Chinese Government has taken a set of stringent measures in balancing the need of its own development and the responsibility it has to take in preserving the environment.

China has made environmental protection as a basic state policy. In its 12th five-year programme (2011-2015) on national economic and social development, China pledged to accelerate the establishment of a resource-saving and environment-friendly society, highlighted by the concept of green and low carbon development. Such a move is significant as both financial and human resources are allocated to promote environmental awareness among the population, to formulate and implement laws and regulations on environmental protection, as well as to restructure the industries, with an emphasis on the expansion of service industry.

Energy saving is a priority. One morning before I came to Trinidad and Tobago, people from the district community came to my apartment in Beijing and told me that they would replace the traditional filament lamps with energy saving ones. This was actually a part of energy saving strategy in China where citizens are encouraged to replace the traditional filament lamps with energy-saving lamps at the cost of only one RMB yuan (approximately US14 cents) for each. In 2008, 3.7 million energy-saving lamps were replaced in Beijing alone, and the figure rose to ten million in 2009. It was estimated that 50 per cent of household filament lamps would be replaced by the end of last year. Incentives are provided to the Chinese car industry to produce energy-efficiency vehicles, while consumers are encouraged, since last year, to buy such types of vehicles at a lower cost (a reduction of 3,000-60,000 RMB yuan, approximately US$440-$8,800), an attractive benefit for owning a new car.

Emphasis is also on the development of low-carbon and renewable energy. The Three Gorges Dam is a powerful symbol of China’s use of hydro resources. China has spent 18 years in building the Three Gorges Dam. With 3035 metres in length and 185 metres in height, the world’s largest dam can annually generate 84.7 billion kilowatthours of electricity, a guarantee that can provide a few electricity-short regions with abundant power and at the same time substantially reduce damage caused by flooding in southern part of China. Along with it, there are thousands of large, medium and small-sized hydraulic power plants, producing 16.2 per cent of China’s total power generation throughout China.

Positive utilisation of wind and solar energy in China in the past decades has also been considerably growing and expanding. The IEA’s chief economist, Faith Birol, recently said that China is the world’s leader in wind and solar power. A couple of years ago, I visited Xinjiang, the Uyghur autonomous region in China’s west. I still remember vividly that I saw over 200 huge windmills alongside a national highway. I later discovered that through the collaborating efforts of China and the Netherlands, those windmills not only form the backbone of Dabancheng Wind Power Plant (the second largest wind power plant in the world) with an annual generating capacity of 180 million kilowatt hours of electricity, but also boost local tourism thanks to its unique landscape. Similarly, if you travel from Beijing to Shanghai by train, which I often do myself, you will not miss seeing plenty of solar panels installed on the roof tops of civilian houses or residential buildings.

PART II

China’s economy is the second largest in the world after that of the United States. During the past 30 years, China’s economy has changed from a centrally-planned system that was largely closed to international trade to a more market-oriented economy that has a rapidly growing private sector. Some of the serious negative consequences of China’s rapid industrial development has been increased pollution, smog, and degradation of natural resources. Efforts to control China’s pollution problem have become a top priority of the Chinese leadership. Beginning in 2006, the Chinese government strengthened its environmental legislation and made  progress in stemming environmental deterioration.

In the second of this two-part series in Guardian Media’s ongoing Cleaning Up The Mess Space, YANG YOUMING, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, tells us how environmental protection is now entrenched in state policy.

In the Sanya Declaration of the third BRICS Leaders Meeting which held in April, China reaffirmed its support to the development and use of renewable energy resources, as well as to the co-operation and information exchange in that field. In that declaration, China and other BRICS countries also recognised the importance of  nuclear energy.

Pollution reduction is very much in the picture. China is the largest coal producing and consuming nation in the world, where 60 per cent of energy consumed is coal. Bearing this in mind, China has since 2009 steadily carried out clean coal strategy with more widely-used technology of coal liquifaction. China now has developed some of the China is also committed to the world’s most advanced clean coal technology. fight against “white pollution.” Since June 1, 2008, China has banned the production, retailing and free use of traditional ultrathin (0.025 mm or less) plastic shopping bags, a step that even many developed countries are yet to take. The amount of plastic bag usage that year slashed by nearly 40 billion or 66 per cent nationwide compared to one year ago.

Efforts are made to fundamentally restore the ecological environment of the good old times. China set March 12 as the National Arbor Day in 1979, and passed in 1981, a legislative resolution that requires Chinese citizens to voluntarily plant trees within their best capabilities in 1981. Since 1982, more than 20.5 billion trees have been planted by hundreds of millions of volunteers throughout the  country.

China has made an indispensable contribution against the climate change around the globe by reforesting its land at an average speed of over 70 million mu (approximately  China also 46,666 km2) annually, topping any other country in the world. carries out a policy of Restoring Cultivated Land to Forestry. China has the largest population yet very limited cultivated land in the world. Even so, China is determined to giving up some of the cultivated land for the sake of protecting and improving the ecological environment, especially in the western part of China.

China is still a developing country working hard to satisfy its people’s expectation in terms of economic growth, yet remains firmly committed to pursue comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development by building a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society. Stephen Singer, the head of energy policy for the WWF environmental group placed his high hopes on China. “We have substantive hopes in China that China will take the lead…to make low-carbon economy, the high energy efficiency economy a reality in the coming years,” he said not long ago.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

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