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China and the World Meet Historic Opportunity for Green Economy

Jul 11, 2012

This is significant for human society.  In the past 20 years, though achievements have been made in the areas of education, alleviation of poverty etc., the progress has been very slow in terms of the goals set by Rio conference in 1992, according to Mr. Maurice Strong, then under Secretary General of United Nations and Secretary General of the Conference. We have been facing significant challenges in eco-security, climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development around the world since then.

What is even worse, the uncertainties in the current financial economy overshadow the efforts we have made and have caused many of us to simply focus on survival without noticing the upcoming environmental crisis.

The current consumption model is destroying the life supporting system, ecosystem, and our environment.  Communities, organizations, and even countries have failed to sufficiently explore nature-based solutions to cope with food security, biodiversity, and environmental challenges. The excessive consumption model and way of living, which originates from the New Deal program launched by US President Franklin Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression and to stimulate recovery, remains dominant but it is not sustainable. With a global population expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050 and challenges posed by a deteriorating environment, it is an irresistible trend that human society will transfer from a brown economy to a green economy.

Delegates spent enormous time and energy on the “green economy” in the preparatory negotiations of the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Though concerns exist that a green economy may justify trade protectionism, there is little doubt that a green economy is the pathway forward for sustainable development that all countries should adhere to in the coming decades. As a recent UN report demonstrates, green economies are a new engine of growth, generate decent jobs and are critical to eliminating persistent poverty. Already, the European Union and Canada regard a green economy as an opportunity for a new industrial revolution to drive the economy and they pushed the topic aggressively during the negotiations.

The question remains whether the creation of a green economy will ultimately pose a challenge or an opportunity for China. The answer is without a doubt that China will join with the whole world to embrace a historic opportunity for an economic transformation. In the end, eco-civilization is not an option, but rather an inevitable course of human society development. A historic transformation is now unfolding.

Unfortunately China’s sustainable development faces grave challenges, ranging from a fragile natural ecological environment to resource constraints. However in terms of developing a green economy, China has its own unique advantages thanks to the nation’s efforts in the promotion of high technology and new energies.

With the development of a green economy, previous rules of the game will be changed and new rules and standards will need to be established. For instance, carbon trading is increasingly emerging as a fast growing money making business.

As the global balance of power shifts east, global production and consumption have steadily moved to the East as well. Given these shifts in economic clout, emerging economies like China should have a greater say and decision-making power in the process of creating a new, global green economy or low-carbon economy. No longer should this process be solely dominated and designed by western countries.

Following the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the outcome document, The Future We Want, also leaves room for major groups, including NGOs, businesses, media, and local authorities, to participate in the on-going efforts to achieve sustainable development goals.

Thousands of participants, including NGOs and other groups, actively contributed to the summit to discuss how best to reduce poverty, improve human welfare and ensure sustainable development this year in Rio+20. This summit marks the first time that non-state actors have joined with government delegations in the formal negotiations.

China’s major groups have been part of these efforts, as China’s NGOs not only hosted a series of side events during the Rio+20 summit, but also have shown their willingness and capability to be deeply involved in the global framework of sustainable development by aggregating the interests of all stakeholders, including business, local authorities, media, academia and NGOs.

One example is the Eco-Forum Global (EFG), which brought a delegation composed of representatives from businesses as well as local authorities, such as Guiyang – a city from China’s southwest poverty-stricken area and Suqian from China east coast area but comparatively underdeveloped, and they both presented their unique achievements in green development.

Like many other organizations, EFG has also given its voluntary commitment which has been recognized by the United Nations and listed in the files of the Conference. Within the commitment, EFG commits itself as a reliable platform for knowledge sharing, open dialogues, and debates as well as a bridge which will help cities and enterprises to find good solutions, best practices, and policies for the big transformation into eco-civilization.

Zhang Xinsheng is the executive chairman of Eco-Forum Global – operated and supported by a public-interest foundation incorporated in China, also a former Vice Minister of Education in China.


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