The 13th meeting of the Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA) under the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), with the theme of "harmonious development between man and nature", opened in Guilin City, Guangxi Autonomous Region on June 8. MEP Minister Zhou Shengxian attended the meeting on invitation and delivered a speech on Vigorously Building Conservation Culture and Actively Exploring a New Pathway towards Environmental Protection.
Zhou Shengxian looked back on the worldwide impact of the international financial crisis and the measures taken by the Chinese Government for addressing climate change and their effectiveness. Zhou noted that the international financial crisis warned that we should enhance financial regulation and reestablish the international financial order and that traditional development mode makes the economic growth unsustainable and the resources and environment hard to support. To implement the sustainable development strategy and try to build conservation culture is our inevitable choice for actively exploring a new pathway towards environmental protection.
Zhou Shengxian said that the Chinese Government has always highly valued the environmental protection, regarded it as one of the fundamental national policies, taken the sustainable development as one of the national strategies, and proposed a series of strategic concepts, policies and tasks for building conservation culture, promoting the historical transformations for environmental protection and rehabilitating the rivers and lakes. China has also identified the obligatory target of reducing the SO2 and COD emissions by 10% in 2010 based on 2005 levels, given priority to guaranteeing safe drinking water for the public, and made tremendous efforts to prevent and control water, air and soil pollution. Thanks to the concerted efforts, China has made remarkable progress in the disposal of the relation between environment and economy, pollution prevention and control, ecological and rural environmental protection, and environmental policies. In 2009, the COD and SO2 emissions were down by 9.66% and 13.14% respectively than the 2005 levels; the proportion of the national environmental protection major cities which enjoyed excellent or good air qualities during over 292 days increased by 26.2% than that in 2005; the proportion of surface water sections under national monitoring program with water quality worse than Grade V decreased by 5.5 percentage points than that in 2005; the proportion of the sections of the seven major waters and under the national monitoring program that had water quality better than Grade III was up by 16.1 percentage points based on 2005 level. The 11th Five-Year Plan for environmental protection was implemented fairly well.
Zhou Shengxian noted that while giving full recognition to our achievements, we should also be aware that the environmental situation in China has the following characteristics, "the environment of local areas is improved, the overall environmental degradation is not yet under control, the environmental situation is still stern, and the environmental protection pressure continues to rise". From the perspective of the future trends, the emissions would increase across the country and the pressure for environmental protection would rise, along with the growing economic size and the increasing population, because China is the largest developing countries with a large population, inefficient resources and fragile ecological environment and it is in the historical period of rapid industrialization and urbanization processes. Facing the serious environmental situation and the arduous environmental protection task, it is not feasible to take the old way of environmental protection, that is, treating the environment after pollution is caused, treating the environment while polluting it, and achieving economic growth at the cost of environment. We should make great efforts to build conservation culture and create conditions for exploring a new pathway for environmental protection in China, which is sustainable, and at little cost, and with good benefits and low emissions. Conservation culture aims at the higher-level harmony between man and nature, between environment and economy, and between man and society. Its precondition is to grasp the rule of nature and respect and maintain nature. Its principle is to achieve the harmony between man and nature, environment and economy, and man and society. Its foundation is the carrying capacity of resources and environment. Its focus point is to foster sustainable production pattern, industrial mix, and consumption mode and enhance sustainable development capacity. Conservation culture stresses man's self-consciousness and self-discipline, the interdependence, mutual progress, and co-existence of man and nature. So, we should adhere to the guidance of scientific outlook on development, and actively set up a macro strategic system for environmental protection according to our national realities, a system for comprehensive prevention and control of pollution, a sound and effective environmental governance system, an effective environmental management system, a legal system where environmental laws, regulations, policies, and standards that are coordinated with the economic development, and a social action system where the whole nation participates in environmental protection. We should try to achieve the harmony between man and nature and balance the economic development with the environmental protection.
Zhou Shengxian stressed that we should work on how to play the integrated role of environmental protection in achieving better economic growth and intensify the environmental protection from the following aspects in the present and future periods. First, we should unremittingly treat the pollution and reduce emissions and hit the environmental targets set forth in the 11th Five-Year Plan. We should regard the pollution treatment and emissions reduction as one of the important tasks in adjusting economic structure and shifting economic growth mode. We should work harder to phase out outdated capacity, ensure that the municipal wastewater treatment plants and coal-fired power plants are in normal operation, enhance environmental management and continue to trim the total amount of pollutants discharged. Second, we should further implement the environmental impact assessment system and control the pollution at sources in order to promote the industrial upgrading. We should strengthen the management of construction projects by the environmental impact assessment system, improve the EIA for plans, explore the EIA for strategies, strictly control energy-and resource-intensive and heavy polluting industries and overcapacity and low-level redundant construction projects, prevent environmental pollution and ecological damages at the sources, and try to establish resource-saving and environment-friendly national economic system and social organization system. Third, we should improve the environmental standards and guide the development of emerging industries and upgrade the technological level by market access. We should speed up the establishment of the management system for environmental standards, establish standards in the new era for environmental quality, for pollution source monitoring and for cleaner production, guide the technological upgrading, and promote the development of green economy, low-carbon economy and circular economy. Fourth, we should enhance environmental science and technology and vigorously develop green economy, low-carbon economy and circular economy. We should make great efforts to develop clean energy and renewable energy, conduct pilot projects on low-carbon economy, develop and extend conservation-minded, advanced, and applicable alternative technologies for recycling and emissions reduction, and promote the development of circular economy. Fifth, we should improve environmental economic policies and work faster to set up regimes and mechanisms for sustainable development. We should improve and implement the system for paid-use of resources, eco-environmental compensation mechanism, and strict target-hitting accountability system for environmental protection. We should deepen the pricing reform and work faster to establish the pricing mechanism for production factors, which reflects the relation between market supply and demand, the scarcity of resources, and the costs for environmental damages. We should promote the reform for the pricing of resource-dependent products and environmental administrative fees, and constantly improve environmental economic policies such as green credit, green taxation, green trade and green insurance.
Zhou Shengxian said that the environmental audit emerged with the awakening of man's environmental awareness and developed with the vigorous development of the world's environmental protection cause. It has become one of the important tasks that the world highly value and implement. The development of environmental audit in China has undergone the dual impacts of the international environmental audit and China's environmental protection cause. China has in recent years generated remarkable social benefits and promoted the environmental protection work through the survey on the audit of water pollution prevention and control in key river basins and the audit on the special fund for energy conservation and emissions reduction. He believed that this meeting would surely turn over a new page for the history of environmental audit undertaking. MEP would learn the experience from other countries in the environmental audit conducted by environmental and audit departments, in order to facilitate the healthy development of the environmental protection cause.
International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) is a professional organization consisting of the supreme audit institutions of member countries of U.N. and its special agencies. The Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA) is the largest working group under INTOSAI. The general meeting of WGEA is held twice every three years, which includes the general meeting of the working group and the forum on environmental audit, discusses, studies and determines the plans, priority tasks and implementation plans of the WGEA, and shares the experience and practices of the world countries in environmental protection and environmental audit. In this meeting, more than 200 representatives from 57 countries and international organizations attended the meeting, having discussions and exchanges on hot topics concerning the international environmental audit.
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