In an article published in the Australian Financial Review, State Environmental Protection Administration Vice-Minister Pan Yue yesterday said China has begun to wake up to its problems of environmental destruction.
A report recently published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development with the approval of the Chinese government said degradation of the country's environment was threatening health and social stability.
Responding to the report, State Environmental Protection Administration head Zhou Shengxian said rapid industrialization had transformed China into one of the world's most polluted countries, with local governments and industries shunning ecological protection in the pursuit of short-term gains.
One of the report's recommendations was that China move to less polluting forms of energy, including gas and renewables, as well as cleaner coal technology.
In the Australian Financial Review Pan Yue said while industrialised nations have developed and made “great use” of nuclear, solar, wind, bio-gas and other renewable energy resources, China has failed to make the cut.
“China’s technological capacities in this sector lag even other developing nations such as India and Pakistan, and its reliance on coal is one of the greatest threats to the global climate,” Pan said.
“Clean energy will be the only way to bring economic growth without doing irreparable environmental damage.”
Pan acknowledged that government cannot solve such problems alone and called on local communities, non-governmental organisations and business to “do their part”.
“They must expand into other avenues of appeal: public hearings, welfare lawsuits, enhanced media coverage and other voluntary activities,” he said.
But Pan said China’s leaders must make several “concrete” moves and go beyond rhetoric.
This, he said, can only be done by introducing legal mechanisms that reward those who protect the environment, while making polluters pay and helping to unify environmental watchdogs “scattered” across different sectors.
“Above all, a system needs to be established to monitor officials’ performance in environmental as well as in economic terms,” he said.