Fueling the eco drive

Updated: 2016-04-29 08:18

By Liu Xiangrui(China Daily)

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Daniel Dudek, an American environmental expert, says China is making steady progress with policies. Liu Xiangrui reports.

Daniel Dudek believes the market can be used to solve environmental problems. And, at a time when China's top leadership is talking about an ecological civilization, his idea resonates here.

"By now I have no doubt what is going to happen, it's really the question of details," the 69-year-old vice-president of the Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based nonprofit, says of China's green transformation in the future.

Dudek has devoted himself to environmental work for more than 40 years. In 1979, he earned a PhD in agricultural economics from University of California, and worked in the US Department of Agriculture, among other places before joining EDF as a senior economist in 1986, to "bridge the gap between theory and practice".

Dudek specializes in the reduction and control of atmospheric pollutants through the use of markets to control emissions from stationary and mobile sources.

In the past he has been involved with important campaigns such as the creation of tradeable production entitlements for chlorofluorocarbons in compliance with the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of some substances that are responsible for depletion of the gas cover around the Earth.

Since the 1990s, Dudek and his organization cooperated with the then China's National Environmental Protection Agency and successfully carried out a trial emission trading system in seven locations in China.

Fueling the eco drive

His organization has had close partnerships with other central government agencies, such as the National Development and Reform Commission, and regional governments.

"We try to help bring some of the lessons we've learned internationally to China and see how they can be productively deployed and developed with Chinese characteristics," Dudek says during a recent visit to Beijing.

"We really want to see the national carbon market successfully introduced and thrive, and become an important factor for the green transformation in China."

During the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the EDF developed rechargeable subway cards to bring the concept of carbon emission trading to ordinary Chinese.

Each card had a number that matched one ton of carbon traded at an exchange in Shanghai.

By buying the card, people spent money to erase carbon footprints they made visiting the expo.

During his visits to China in the past few years, Dudek has been to practically every province, trying out all kinds of transportation.

He describes his life in China as "going from one hotel to another and waking up in a different bed every morning".

He says he has witnessed positive changes in China's environmental protection programs, in terms of the government's involvement, laws and policies, within a relatively short span of time.

The status of relevant government agencies are upgraded continuously.

For example, the National Environmental Protection Agency of the 1990s was changed to the State Environmental Protection Administration, and then to a full-fledged Ministry of Environmental Protection.

"The upgrading signifies the importance of the environmental agenda," he says. "The changes took place step by step, and they are continuing."

Dudek, who pays close attention to environmental news about China, says he has observed a growing awareness of the environment among average Chinese.

"People are much more concerned about environmental problems (these days), they are more vocal, which raises government's expectations to solve these problems," says Dudek, adding that part of the changes come along with technology, including the air-quality monitoring apps on smartphones.

But Dudek points out that it is a big challenge to achieve satisfying results for environmental protection in such a huge and diverse country, where great differences between regions exist.

"It's still a challenge to have people understand that we really need broad cooperation to solve the problem because of the difference between physical boundaries (among provinces and regions)," he says, adding that he once in a while finds it difficult to promote his ideas among regional officials.

In the US, he says people faced similar challenges, but in the end they succeeded, thanks to such programs.

China plans to launch a national emission trading system in 2017, part of a joint presidential statement issued by China and the United States in September 2015.

Dudek hopes it can finally break down the traditional mindset of competition between regions and help them communicate better.

Dudek stresses it's no longer enough for the government to just give out regulations, and it's important to design policies that will create incentives so that enterprises learn to respect the environment more.

"To make right things easy and wrong things hard - that's the way to achieve leverage," he says.

In 2007, he was appointed as one of the 23 members of China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, an advisory body to the Chinese government on the environment and sustainable development issues.

Recognized for his work in China, Dudek was awarded the Friendship Award, the highest honor given by the Chinese government to foreigners for their contributions in social and economic development, in 2004.

"For me it is a kind of recognition, not of me personally, but of such ideas. It's a kind of validation that it is something important for China's future," says Dudek, who thinks himself as a representative of all the people making the same efforts.

According to Dudek, his long-term commitment to China naturally has extended to his family.

He and his wife have adopted two Chinese girls from East China's Jiangsu province. Nowadays, the family regularly has Chinese guests at home. The couple also tries to keep their children aware of Chinese culture and events in the country.

"China in some sense is my second home," he says.

"My experience here has been for most of the period of reform and opening-up. It is one of the most important parts of Chinese history. And, to be able to participate in it has been spectacular."

Contact the writer at liuxiangrui@chinadaily.com.cn

 Fueling the eco drive

Left: Daniel Dudek’s bond with China has become stronger after he and his wife adopted two Chinese girls. Center: The US expert visits local farmers to promote his environmental protection program in Shaanxi province in 2010. Right: Dudek receives the Friendship Award in 2004. Photos Provided To China Daily


(China Daily 04/29/2016 page20)