BEIJING, CHINA – Policy makers in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) need to initiate comprehensive fiscal, economic, and legal measures to achieve its ambitious ecological progress objectives, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says in a new country environmental report.
The Chinese language version of the report, titled Toward an Environmentally Sustainable Future: Country Environmental Analysis of the People’s Republic of China, was launched at a seminar in Beijing jointly sponsored by ADB, Tsinghua University, and World Resources Institute on 14 January 2013 (an English version of the report was launched in Manila, Philippines on 15 August 2012). The report was the ADB’s second country environmental analysis of the PRC and provided key inputs to the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan.
The report notes that, starting in 2007, ecological progress was identified as a key element for balanced economic growth and environmental protection. The 18th national congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2012 stressed further its importance to the PRC’s modernization.
The report acknowledges a number of notable environmental achievements in the PRC, particularly during the past 5 years. These achievements notwithstanding, the PRC faces potential crises in water pollution, water scarcity, and solid waste. Urban and industrial wastewater treatment and solid waste management remain major challenges. Nonpoint source pollution, including fertilizer runoff, pesticides, and discharges from livestock facilities, threatens the health of lakes and estuaries. Addressing these issues will require innovative strategies, regulations, and economic incentives.
The report identifies root causes to the country’s complex environmental agenda and makes recommendations on strategies, regulations, and economic incentives which are necessary to achieve ecological progress.
“The PRC’s environmental challenge is arguably the most complex that any country has confronted,” said Hamid L. Sharif, Country Director for ADB in PRC. “While the PRC’s environment has improved in many respects, the overall situation continues to deteriorate as environmental pressures increase. A lot more will need to be done before the country’s environmental situation reaches a turning point.”
To change the PRC’s unsustainable growth pattern, the ADB report urges the government to reform the pricing of resources and introduce ”green” taxation on resource extraction, pollutants, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and to allow tax deductions to offset investments in pollution control equipment.
Fiscal reform should also accompany these economic incentives. This will help to recycle new revenues or savings from environmental taxes to sub-provincial governments to encourage investments in environmental protection and resources conservation. The report also recommends that the government establishes a national regulatory framework for “eco-compensation,” an initiative where the government or private sector pays for ecological services delivered by households, communities or local governments.
The ADB report highlights the importance of involving the international community in achieving environmental sustainability. International partners including the ADB can support ecological progress by greening the government’s development portfolio, including mainstreaming climate change into future operations.
Participants at the seminar held wide-ranging discussions on pathways to promoting ecological progress: ecological functional zoning, sustainable urbanization strategies, water security, energy conservation, ecosystem restoration, pollution management, the eco-compensation system, fees and taxation reform for green growth, and regional knowledge sharing on green development. Participants included officials and experts from government agencies, development partners, research institutions and universities.