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Statement by Ms. BAI Yongjie, Counselor of the Chinese Mission to the UN at the Roundtable on “Environmental Sustainability” of the UN High-level Event on Millennium Development Goals


New York, 25 September 2008

Mr. Chairman,

Environmental protection is an important mission that benefits both the present and future generations. Ensuring environmental sustainability is a common task for all countries. But due to different development levels and national conditions, countries are faced with different challenges. Eight years ago, the UN Millennium Summit put forward some comprehensive development goals, and made environmental sustainability an indispensable component of the MDGs. As we pass the midpoint for the achievement of the MDGs, it is essential for countries to have a comprehensive assessment of the issue of environmental sustainability. Now I'd like to make a briefing and share my views from China's perspective.

Mr. Chairman,

Strengthening environmental protection and achieving sustainable development bears on the overall interest and long-term development of China's modernization drive as well as the welfare of its 1.3 billion people. The Chinese government attaches great importance to environmental protection. Over the years, while promoting the economic growth, the Chinese government has taken a series of measures to protect the environment and has achieved good results. At the national level, environmental infrastructure is markedly bolstered, projects for ecological protection have been carried out successfully, and a legal system for environmental protect is generally put in place. The trend toward environmental pollution and ecological degradation is slowed down. Initial results have been achieved in cleaning up some of the polluted rivers and regions. The environment in some cities and regions has turned for the better, and the emission intensity of industrial pollutants has been reduced.

Nevertheless, we are soberly aware that China is still faced with daunting challenges and difficulties in ensuring environmental sustainability. First, new environmental problems keep emerging on top of unresolved ones accumulated over the years. The environmental problems encountered by developed countries over a hundred years at different stages of industrialization have cropped up in China all at the same time. Second, given its large population and weak economic foundation, China will no doubt encounter difficulties in economic and social aspects at present and in a long time to come. If we do not grow our economy now, it will be impossible to meet the needs of the people and improve their lives, or carry out more measures for environmental protection. We need to maintain a balanced and rapid growth of the economy. Third, the emergence of many new problems in the world economy has added to new uncertainties and posed new challenges to our efforts to maintain economic growth and protect the environment.

In a high sense of responsibility to the country, the nation and the future generations, the Chinese government, recognizing the urgency of the issue, has put forward the important strategic thoughts of fostering a scientific approach to development and building a harmonious society. Our goal is to develop a resource-efficient and environment-friendly society. In order to achieve this goal and promote the sustainability of the global environment, we have laid out a host of specific targets, i.e. by 2010, while doubling the per capita GDP of the year 2000, we will strive for, as compared with the 2005 level, a 20% reduction in China's per unit GDP energy consumption, a 10% reduction in main pollutant discharge and a 20% increase in forest coverage. China will enhance its capacity to achieve sustainable development and keep the growth of greenhouse gas emissions under control. These targets not only serve the needs of tackling environmental pollution and protecting the nature and ecological system but also reflect the desire of the general public. Despite the difficulties and the dissatisfactory results in achieving the targets in the previous two years, we are determined and will redouble our efforts to achieve the goals.

Mr. Chairman,

Environmental protection and sustainable development is the common responsibility of mankind as a whole, and, in the final analysis, can only be realized with the concerted efforts of the international community. To reverse the trend of global environmental degradation, we need to implement in good faith the Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and intensify international cooperation.

1. An integrated approach is needed to coordinate economic development, social progress and environmental protection. Environmental issues should be addressed within the overall framework of sustainable development to ensure that the three pillars, namely the economy, the society and the environment go hand in hand in a balanced, comprehensive and coordinated manner. Environmental protection must be incorporated into national development strategies and carried out in real earnest.

2. It is necessary to increase investment in human resources, capital and technology. Human resources are essential to environmental protection while capital and technology are also key elements. Due to the constraints in terms of human resources, capital and technology, developing countries find it hard to effectively cope with the dual pressure of economic development and environmental protection. The international community, especially developed countries, should therefore truly deliver on their commitments in finance and technology to help developing countries improve their ability to protect the environment.

3. All-dimensional cooperation is needed to protect the ecosystem and environment. Climate change and other global issues should be addressed under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities". Environmental problems need to be resolved through enhanced global, regional and bilateral cooperation. We should mobilize various resources, give full play to the initiative of NGOs, the private sector and other groups, and build broad-based partnerships in a concerted effort to tackle environmental challenges.

Mr. Chairman,

Protecting the environment is tantamount to protecting life. It is our unshirkable responsibility. Let us act now to fulfill our commitments and turn our goals into reality.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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