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Successful Sino-Italian cooperation

China Daily reporter Yang Cheng interviewed the Italian Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Gian Luca Galletti on the country's in-depth and diverse cooperation with China. He shared his insights on a series of successful programs and his vision for boosting bilateral environmental protection.

What is the state of the China-Italy relationship in the field of environmental protection?

Beyond the joint efforts Italy and China are carrying out at the international level to tackle climate change and accomplish the UN 2030 Agenda, the two countries have very solid and long-lasting bilateral cooperation in the field of environmental protection, particularly through the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection.

The program, with a management office in Beijing, not only helped in the consolidation of our long-term relationships, but it also allowed both countries to take joint measures tailored to face China's evolving environmental challenges and needs.

After more than 15 years, it is possible to argue that both Italy and China have benefited from this close cooperation and look forward to further cooperating with each other for the promotion of environmental protection and sustainable development.

Some of the environmental problems China faces today have been tackled by Italy in the past. What is the added value of the Italian experience to date?

Indeed, some of the environmental problems China faces today are those Italy already tackled in the past decades.

In the 1960s, Italy triggered strong economic growth - known as the "Italian miracle" - which transformed the country from a poor, mainly rural nation into a global industrial power.

In spite of its positive effects on Italian economic and social development, this growth caused relevant environmental problems, such as air and water pollution.

On the other hand, China's industrialization has made remarkable achievements in recent decades, making it the world's largest manufacturing country.

Nevertheless, this rapid industrialization led to growing environmental degradation, natural resources' depletion and pollution of air, water and soil.

Italian authorities faced the post-1960s environmental problems by applying strict laws and regulations and since that time key amendments have been made to further improve Italian environmental policies and legislation, leading to outstanding improvements in environmental quality.

In recent years, China has implemented remarkable environmental policies and strategies, following the ambitious goals set in its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) for air pollution reduction and treatment of water and soil pollution.

The Italian experience and expertise can be helpful in all these fields, not only to avoid the replication of our mistakes, but also to allow China to do better and faster than Italy in the way toward sustainable development.

In which environmental sectors in particular can Italy make a difference and ultimately be helpful to China?

China and Italy have great potential for further strengthening their strategic partnership in the field of environmental protection technology.

During this process, the Italian experience can certainly be helpful in different fields, for example air, water, soil, but it needs to be adapted to the Chinese context.

To do so, a constant communication between technicians of both countries is needed, and that is why some of our activities are focused on the facilitation of dialogue, particularly in those environmental fields where the market is very complex, for both Italian and Chinese companies.

Joint cooperation activities, such as seminars, pilot projects and business meetings at China's most important environmental fairs, have been recently implemented; they allowed the sharing of Italian green best practices, experiences and technologies to eventually foster green development in China.

This is your second mission to China, after that of 2014. What are the commitments and goals of this year's mission?

Indeed it is my second visit as minister of the environment of Italy and I was really looking forward to coming back to China.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have made important progress in environmental protection and in the first days of my mission I had the privilege to meet the highest Chinese authorities in the environmental field, with whom I exchanged views on the most urgent environmental issues.

Moreover, this mission gave me the opportunity to take part in the seminar on environmental management and sustainable development which also celebrated, in the presence of representatives from several Chinese institutions, the 15 years of our Sino-Italian training program.

In the next days, we will also inaugurate the Yunchou Building on the campus of Tongji University.

Can you enlighten us on the training program you mentioned?

The Sino-Italian Advanced Training Program on Environmental Management and Sustainable Development was launched in 2003 and, in these 15 years, has involved more than 10,000 trainees.

The objective is to provide Chinese government officials, researchers and company executives with theoretical instruments and practical case studies on Italian and European experiences on different environmental issues, in order to facilitate the exchange of views, information and best practices on economic, social, regulatory and technological instruments of sustainable development and environmental protection.

The training is one of the greatest success stories of Sino-Italian cooperation on environmental protection since it increased the participants' capacities to integrate sustainable development principles and technologies into their decision-making process. Many high-level officials from China have been part of the training activity, creating a special link with our country.

Can you tell us more about the Yunchou Building you mentioned?

In 2014, the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea committed to improving the energy efficiency of the Yunchou Building at Tongji University.

The project is now complete and the building will soon be ready to host educational and office rooms, exhibition spaces as well as lecture and exhibition halls under a multifunctional roof.

The building will become another symbol of the successful cooperation between China and Italy in the sectors of environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.

Given the challenges posed by the recently changed international context and the solid bilateral cooperation to date, what will be the next steps of the environmental cooperation between China and Italy?

In regards to the international context, the United States' recent announcement on the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is very regrettable news; that said, as announced by the leaders of our respective countries, neither Italy nor China will sway from the goals set out in Paris in 2015.

In such circumstances, Italy and China have the great opportunity to work even more closely together, in the shared commitment to reducing emissions and promoting renewable energy and sustainable development.

From the bilateral point of view, I believe Italy and China may further strengthen their mutually beneficial cooperation in such fields, with a specific focus on policy advisory, technological cooperation and capacity building.

Source:Xinhua, China Daily

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