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Address by Mr. Cui Tiankai Assistant Foreign Minister of China At the Opening of the 12th Senior Officials Meeting of the Northeast Asia Sub-regional Program for Environmental Cooperation

2007/03/22

Fellow Delegates,

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I wish to extend, on behalf of the Chinese Government, congratulations on the opening of the 12th Senior Officials Meeting of the Northeast Asia Sub-regional Program for Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC) in Beijing, and a warm welcome to all delegates to the meeting. I also wish to thank the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and other international organizations for their support over the years to environmental cooperation in Northeast Asia.

International cooperation on environment and sustainable development has attracted wide attention in the international community since the 1990s. The convocation of important meetings such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the International Meeting of the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and the formulation of important documents including the Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation are proofs of the resolve of the international community to meet global environmental challenges and chart the course of international cooperation on environment. Today, environment and sustainable development are as popular concepts well understood by the general public as they are an integral part of international and regional cooperation. Positive progress has been made thanks to effective cooperation among various parties. Nevertheless, the global trend of environmental deterioration continues its downward spiral and problems such as damages to the ecosystem, global warming, industrial pollution, and wasteful use of resources are far from been resolved. At the same time, world economic development becomes even more unbalanced, the gap between the South and the North widens, and traditional and non-traditional security threats interact. The international community still has a long way to go before achieving the goals of environmental protection and sustainable development.

Dear Delegates,

The six countries in Northeast Asia are committed to environmental protection and sustainable development. NEASPEC was launched as a follow-up action in Northeast Asia of the UN Conference on Environment and Development. In the 14 years since its establishment, NEASPEC has, pursuing the principles of making pragmatic and gradual progress, achieved positive results. Ideas advocated by NEASPEC such as green growth have been recognized and endorsed by the 5th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, and have added to and enhanced the theory on international environment governance. Practical cooperation conducted within NEASPEC on programs to reduce coal-fired power plant pollution, control and prevent sandstorms, and improve eco-efficiency have made positive progress and brought real benefits to countries in the region. The training programs and workshops organized by NEASPEC have enhanced the technology and expertise of countries in the region to protect the environment. Over the 14 years, NEASPEC has played a positive role in environmental protection and sustainable development in Northeast Asia.

Dear Delegates,

In the future, we should build on the current achievements and press ahead with environmental cooperation in Northeast Asia with a view to benefiting all the people in the region. To that end, I wish to put forward three proposals:

First, give full play to our strengths and enhance cooperation. Over the past decade and more, by giving full play to its unique features and following the principles of equality, mutual benefit, building consensus through consultation, working in a step by step manner and stressing practical results, the mechanism has produced positive results in promoting cooperation in environment and sustainable development in Northeast Asia. We should continue to tap its potentials and enhance cooperation in areas that are of interest to all six countries and that can bring real benefit to them. In addition, while carrying out environmental cooperation in Northeast Asia, which is a part of the global cooperation in environment and development, we should take into full account the principles and goals of the international environmental cooperation with a view to making due contribution to this global endeavor.

Second, explore new avenues and raise more funds. The environmental cooperation mechanism in Northeast Asia could not function effectively without sufficient human, material and financial resources. Since its establishment, funds have mainly come from voluntary contributions of member states and project-based funding from relevant international financial institutions. The core fund, set up in 2001, has provided relatively stable financial resources to the mechanism. The total amount of funds available reached US$770,000 in fiscal year 2005-2006. However, core fund alone is not sufficient to ensure effective functioning of the mechanism. Therefore, we need to explore new avenues to raise funds, especially to win support from countries outside this region and from the Global Environment Facility. We should also be creative in seeking more financial support for the fund. China attaches importance to the fund and will contribute another US$50,000 this year.

Third, stay focused and prioritize the implementation of projects. Since the establishment of the mechanism, a number of cooperation projects have been carried out, including the clean coal technology and biodiversity projects that have been well received by member states. This senior officials meeting has a full range of items on its agenda, including a review of the progress made in projects on mitigation of transboudary air pollution from coal-fired power plants in Northeast Asia as well as prevention and mitigation of dust and sandstorm, discussions on the Initiative on Eco-efficiency Partnership, a presentation by China on the building of a resources-conserving society and discussions on ways to carry out projects in Northeast Asia following the above line of thinking. China supports these cooperation projects and hopes that they will be implemented in real earnest so that greater contribution will be made to protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development in this region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world today is moving rapidly toward multi-polarization and globalization. International and regional cooperation is deepening and relations among countries are getting closer. All this presents new development opportunities for countries in the world including those in Northeast Asia. As a country in Northeast Asia, China is ready to make its contribution to regional development.

China always attaches importance to environmental protection and sustainable development. Ancient Chinese philosophy teaches us "not to fish by draining the pond or to prey by burning the forest". What it implies is exactly the idea of sustainability. China has joined a number of international conventions on environmental protection, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention on Biodiversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and has actively honored its obligations under these instruments. The Chinese Government has formulated China's Agenda 21 and Program of Action for Sustainable Development in China in the Early 21st Century, identifying environmental protection as one of the basic state policies and sustainable development a major strategy. In light of changing circumstances, China introduced a scientific outlook on development in its Eleventh Five-Year Plan on Economic and Social Development. It prioritizes improvement of the eco-system and environment as important elements in the building of a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and sets out the objective of building a resources-conserving and environment-friendly society by taking on new concept and models of development and improving the quality of development. The target is that energy consumption per unit GDP in 2010 will be reduced by about 20% from the level at the end of 2005, total discharge of pollutants reduced by 10% and forest coverage increased by 1.8%. We believe that the progress China makes in environmental protection and sustainable development will contribute to international efforts in environmental protection and development.

To conclude, I wish this meeting a success and everyone a pleasant stay in Beijing.

Thank you.

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