Report tracks China's growth

Updated: 2012-06-19 07:56

By Chen Weihua in Rio de Janeiro (China Daily)

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China's fast growing civil society made a splash on Sunday at the Rio+20, or the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, by releasing the country's own report on its sustainable development records over the past 20 years.

Titled China Going Green: A Civil Society Review of 20 Years of Sustainable Development, the report acknowledges the positive contributions of China's environmental, social and economic development since the adoption of Agenda 21 at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

That includes progress made in government policies, environmental laws, environmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, renewable energy and public awareness and strategies in seeking green development, according to the report, which covers everything from poverty reduction, gender and public health to climate change, water resources and desertification.

However, the report contained some warnings. "The overall condition of China's environment continued to deteriorate over the past two decades," Professor Zhang Yisheng, a senior researcher at the Institute of Quantitative and Technical Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in the report.

Ma Jun, executive director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said that environmental pollution in China has become a serious problem not just for the current generation, but for future generations.

"Despite the efforts, we still haven't seen a turning point," he told a packed room at RioCentro, the venue for Rio+20, where leaders of some 130 countries will come for the summit from Wednesday to Friday to sign a joint declaration on global sustainable development.

Ma believes a lack of motivation is the key to the problem. And that motivation, he said, should come from government enforcement, environmental litigation and valuing the ecosystem.

"When the cost of pollution is much lower than compliance, the dynamic is wrong," he said, blaming many local governments for still putting GDP growth ahead of the environment.

Ma believes public participation is a good way to change behavior.

He cited the power of an online databank launched in China by several NGOs years ago to expose environmental violations. "Some polluters, after paying fines year after year without solving their problems, are now facing public pressure. One by one, they start to change their behavior," he said.

That kind of pressure has also been placed on large international brands operating in China or outsourcing in China, Ma said.

The report, defined by the NGOs involved as an independent, original and honest one, also noted that growing materialism and consumerism and the fact that China became the "factory of the world" in globalization have put extra pressure on the country in sustainable development.