China has taken global financial crisis as an opportunity to consolidate its measures in reducing green house gas emission, readjusting industrial mix and changing the mode of growth as well as promoting China's environmental protection cause, said Dr. Zhou Guomei from China Environmental Protection Research Institute at a forum in Stockholm when China's Trade Promotion Delegation visited Sweden recently.
China has set its goal of reducing energy consumption by 20% per GDP unit and pollutant discharge by 10% from 2006 to 2010.
Dr. Zhou said in order to promote clean production and protect environment, China has invested 210 billion yuan (over 30 billion US dollars ) of its 4 trillion yuan of economic stimulus package into emission reduction and ecological construction projects. The central government investment served as a driving force and drove 380 billion yuan (over 53 billion US dollars) investment from local governments. During the fourth quarter last year and the first quarter this year, China increased its investment in emission reduction and ecological construction projects by 23 billion yuan, accounting for 10% of the total stimulus package for the same period. The money is mainly used in pollution treatment and prevention in key reaches of key rivers in China, in non-hazardous disposal of waste, protection of natural forests and construction of protection forests.
Dr. Zhou said the second method China has taken is to complete the system of environmental impact assessment. Those projects that are in line with national environmental protection policies could get go-ahead while those projects that were highly polluting and consuming more resources were not approved. To be specific, 156 projects were rejected in 2008 while 579 projects were approved. This could result in reduction of SO2 by 460 thousand tons and COD by 38.4 thousand tons.
Dr. Zhou said China has become the largest country in the world that has the capacity to get rid of sulfur in coal. China's capacity in desulfurizing coal is about 97.12 million kilowatts generation set. Now 60% of China's thermal power plants has the capacity of desulfur the coal. China can also treat 66% of its waste water in city and town areas, becoming the world's second largest country that can treat its waste water in towns and cities.
Dr. Zhou said that China has also fully begun its rural environmental protection campaign and proposed a series of protection measures. A special environmental protection fund has been established with a total of 500 million yuan or 70 million US dollars to conduct ecological and environmental treatment in 700 villages and towns in 2008. The fund will be increased to one billion yuan in 2009.
Dr. Zhou said a series of laws and regulations as well as standards and policies in environmental protection and energy saving were issued by the government, for example, the 'provisions on energy saving civil constructions',' provisions on energy-saving public constructions' and a series of environmental economic policies such as green credit, green trade, green securities and green insurance. There has been a special pilot project in carbon trade in order to deal with the pollution in Taihu Lake in East China.
Dr. Zhou said that all these measures have been effective and China is hopeful to realize its goal in reduction of SO2 by 10% by the end of this year because the reduction of SO2 was 8.95% in 2008 compared with that in 2005.
Dr. Zhou said however China still faces great challenges in emission reduction and environmental protection, thus the following policies need to be improved.
First, macro control measures should be taken to further readjust industrial mix and deepen environmental impact assessment system. More attention should be paid to environmental health, environmental security and social impacts. Environmental industry should be promoted.
Second, industrial pollution should be treated and agricultural pollution should be taken care of. Circular economy should be promoted and clean production should be expanded.
Third, environmental economy should be encouraged and market mechanism should be utilized. The government should use price and tax as levers to encourage industries to treat pollution within their spheres so that wastes and sewage will be treated before they are discharged.
Fourth, environmental industry should be raised and expanded as a new growth sector. Chinese enterprises are encouraged to produce environmental machineries and equipments.
Dr. Zhou said that she encourages Swedish environmental industry to cooperate with China in this field, which can be a new great potential market for Swedish companies.
Dr. Zhou said China also pays attention to the partnership between government, enterprises and the whole society in dealing with emission and environmental protection issues. The government will try to guide the enterprises to deal with the emissions and pollution through compensation mechanism. She said that China also observes the international convention in environmental protection and promotes low carbon economy.
Dr. Zhou also briefed the Swedish representatives that China has conducted wide range of cooperation with Sweden in water treatment, air quality control, biodiversity, waste treatment, environmental management, industry and technology. All these cooperation has undergone smoothly.
By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online, Stockholm.