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China Played Significant Role in Process Leading up to Copenhagen

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Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary- General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) told Xinhua in an interview on Friday that China played a significant role in the process leading up to Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

"I think China played a very significant role in the process leading up to Copenhagen, and in a sense it became very engaged at the highest international political level in the process," the UNEP chief said.

Steiner noted that China took a significant step forward when it made its announcements of voluntary actions a few weeks before Copenhagen. And that sent a very important signal to the negotiations.

"We saw similar actions taken by Mexico, by South Africa, by Brazil, by Indonesia and also India. That created an opportunity," he said.

Steiner admitted that Copenhagen did not deliver what the world had hoped, which was a deal among developed and developing countries to achieve significant agreement in reduction of emissions. However, he maintained that it was also not the failure that some people had attributed to it.

"I think in history it shall be written as a missed opportunity. We are now focused on moving forward towards Mexico and the world has an opportunity to reach an agreement," he said to Xinhua.

On China's situation of environmental protection and carbon emissions reduction, Steiner said the nation has made rapid progress yet challenges still remain.

He stressed that China has begun to take a different development path. Chinese leaders and people have started to look at development also from a sense of balance. And therefore environmental protection and sustainable development have taken a far quicker route of being addressed today than by some industrialized nations have done in historical terms.

"I think many of the measures the government is taking, from establishing a ministry of environmental protection to new legislation, to setting pollution standards, showed that in a period of just 10 to 15 years, China has walked a distance that some other countries had taken 30 to 40 years," he said.

The UNEP chief added that "also let us be very realistic that environmental challenge for China is significant, and therefore effective action is necessary and urgent."

He lauded China for including the notion of ecological civilization and the transition to a green economy into part of the country's mainstream development planning and the next Five- Year Development Program.

"To me it provides some very encouraging signs that we will see a very different economic development philosophy emerging in China. And this is also UNEP's mission to work with China in bringing the latest science and knowledge that have been developed across the world on green economy opportunities into the debate and discussions in China," he said.

Referring to the upcoming Shanghai Expo, Steiner said such big events can be not only a showcase for the country, but can also act as an experiment with policies, with new technologies and with new ways of management.

"The Shanghai Expo, with the theme of 'Better City, Better Life, ' has put the quality of life, which is so closely related with environment management, at the heart of this international event," he said.

Steiner compared the Expo to the Beijing Olympics, saying that the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing provided many examples of innovation technology as well as environmental management initiatives. It is in his belief that the Shanghai Expo will just stand in the same tradition.

(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2010)

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