Rising to
new challenges

Xie Zhenhua sets out his hopes for the GEF Assembly, and calls for concrete action

This golden October, representatives from 173 countries, from international organizations and from non-governmental organizations, will gather in Beijing. They will participate in the Second Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), to review its basic policies, assess its operational strategies and reflect upon its experiences and lessons. The meeting is both a great event for GEF and a great concern for the international community.

The 1992 Earth Summit shaped the GEF into a financing mechanism for global environmental cooperation. For years, it has effectively contributed to the developing countries’ drive to improve the global environment. At the same time, it has witnessed some progress in strengthening its management, improving working efficiency and simplifying its reviewing and approving procedures. At present, it is still difficult to quantify the GEF’s positive impact on the global environment, but there is little doubt that the GEF has been playing an ever more important role in tackling global environmental issues.

Negative trends
Humanity has entered a new century, but the global environmental problems have not abated with increasing material affluence. Poverty and hunger still threaten a quarter of the people of developing countries. The desert is still rampant, forest continues to disappear, freshwater is still scarce and greenhouse gas emissions increase. The unsustainable production and consumption patterns of developed countries have not changed. The deteriorating trend of the global environment demands that the global community demonstrate a stronger political commitment and takes more action so as to make greater strides along the road towards sustainable development.
Developed countries are obliged to assume unshirkable major responsibilities
Addressing these global environmental issues will require a joint effort by all the countries of the world. Nevertheless, developed countries are obliged to assume unshirkable major responsibilities, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. On the basis of this principle, they should take on greater responsibilities for improving the global environment and thus provide ‘new and additional financial resources’ and transfer environmentally friendly technologies on preferential terms, so as to help developing countries enhance their capacity-building and improve their capabilities to address environmental issues and participate in the global environmental protection programme.

China wields great impact in the environmental arena and it makes a positive contribution to the global environment by addressing its own environmental problems well. After the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, the Government of China identified sustainable development as a most important strategy. It has made huge and effective efforts for improving environmental quality. During a decade of unremitting effort, the sustainable development strategy has been integrated into all fields of social and economic work, assuring and promoting the sustained coordinated development of economy, society, population and environment.

China’s national economy increased by 8.3 per cent a year over the Ninth Five-year Planning Period between 1996 and 2000. Yet over the same period the amount of major pollutants discharged decreased by 10-15 per cent. China has also embarked upon a large-scale initiative covering regional and river basin pollution prevention and treatment and ecological conservation even though its per capita GDP is less than $800. As a result of these policies and measures, the country’s formerly deteriorating trend of environmental pollution has basically been arrested, environmental quality has been improved in some cities and areas, and ecological conservation has been strengthened.

Proactive stance
Throughout, China has been very proactive in tackling international environmental issues. It has signed an array of important international environmental instruments and registered widely hailed achievements in stringently fulfilling its own international obligations and responsibilities. In the new century, we will, as always, make further efforts in international environmental cooperation and make our due contribution to achieving sustainable development and protecting the global environment.

The GEF assumes a vital responsibility and obligation in fulfilling its mission to tackle global environmental issues. Its Second Assembly will provide a new motivating force for developing its undertakings, and inject fresh vitality into it. I want to appeal to the international community to refrain from empty talks and to translate all our commitments into concrete actions – thus extending substantial support and assistance to GEF in terms of its replenishment – so as to prevent our common homeland, the Earth’s ecological system, from being damaged further. I am looking forward to this Assembly being an unprecedentedly grand and successful meeting which will implement the outcomes hammered out by the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

As the capital city of a country with 5,000 years of splendid civilization history, time-honoured Beijing is particularly dynamic and attractive. Autumn is a time for harvesting and the best season for the city. As Minister for the Environment and a Beijing citizen, I warmly welcome delegates to Beijing to make this meeting fruitful by sharing your experience and wisdom with us for a better GEF

Xie Zhenhua is Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, China.

PHOTOGRAPH: Lim Eng Geen/UNEP/Still Pictures

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Unmatched opportunities | Global priority | Partnerships for change | Rising to new challenges | Much achieved, more to do | Message to the Second GEF Assembly | Africa Environment Outlook | Critical energy | Mapping the health of the planet | Regaining ground | Two to tango | Linking knowledge to action | Globalizing benefits | Unpopular POPs | Message to the Second GEF Assembly

Complementary articles in other issues:
Special supplement to coincide with the Global
Environment Facility Assembly
(Fresh Water) 1998
Xie Zenhua: Saving the common land (Mountains and Ecotourism) 2002
Ye Ruqiu: Cutting carbon (Energy) 2001

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
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