Tackling Challenges for Sustainable Development

 Issued on The Indian Express Website, 19 June, 2012

 By Deng Xijun, ChargĂ© d' Affairs of Chinese Embassy in India

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will be held on June 20 - 22, 2012, which is commonly known as Rio+20, treating "green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication" and "institutional framework for sustainable development" as its two themes. Under the two themes, Rio+20 will assess the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed commitments, address new and emerging challenges, and secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development.

We are aware that uneven development, severe regional environmental pollution, desertification, climate change, population growth, poverty, increased demand for natural resources and energy supply are among the challenges China, India and many other developing countries are facing for sustainable development.

China is committed to pursuing sustainable development as a national strategy. As a matter of fact, sustainable development is embodied in China's traditional values. Over 2,000 years ago, the great Chinese philosophers Mencius observed that "refraining from over fishing will ensure fishing last forever" and "cutting wood according to the season ensure the health of forest" are the means to achieve harmony between man and nature.

China has achieved remarkable results in promoting sustainable development process and accumulated some experience. China has instituted the most stringent systems for managing farmland and water resources, and fed one fifth of the global population with less than 10% of the world's farmland and only 28% of the world's per capita water resources. In the past decade, we have implemented the policy of development-oriented aid to the rural poor and lifted around 70 million people out of poverty, making China the first country to meet the Millennium Development Goal. China has carried out afforestation for two decades, with coverage now reaching 620,000 square kilometers. We are also committed to the implementation of energy conservation, and increase the efforts in pollution control. Since 2005, while maintaining a robust economic growth, China has cut energy consumption per unit of GDP by 21%, and emissions of major pollutants such as S02 and COD by 16% and 14% respectively. China also attach great importance to people's livelihood and strive to promote the well-being of the people.

China cannot develop itself in isolation from the rest of the world, and global sustainability can not be maintained without China. China has taken the initiative to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation. We have carried out cooperation with many countries in the fields of resources, environment, disaster prevention and mitigation, and a large number of demonstration projects on sustainable development with the United Nations agencies and other international organizations. We have fully honored our commitments in the field of sustainable development, complying with various international treaties that China has joined.

Meanwhile, China is also providing any possible assistance to other developing countries and least developed countries in accordance with the principles of equality, mutual benefit, and emphasis on practical results, utilization of diversified forms, and the pursuit of common development. As of the end of 2010, China had offered zero tariff treatment to more than 60% of the products from 38 least developed countries, provided other developing countries with 287 billion yuan (USD 46 billion) of financial assistance, and written off 30 billion yuan (USD 4.76 billion) debt of 50 heavily indebted poor countries and least developed countries.

China is in the process of rapid industrialization and urbanization and its development has many constrains. First, China is poor in natural endowment, low in per capita share of resources, and it has a fragile eco-system and disparity in regional development. Second, we are facing the dual pressures to accelerate development while restructuring the economy. China is still a developing country with large population, weak economic foundation and low-level productivity. Measured by the newly-adjusted national poverty line, China still has 128 million poor people in rural areas. Each year, over 10 million people enter the labor market. The conflict between our resources supply and demand is more prominent, the emissions of major pollutants continue to exceed the capacity of the environment. China thus faces a formidable task of growing the economy while protecting the environment. Third, economic and social structural problems are prominent in China. The industrial structure is not sound; the domestic and external demand as well as investment and consumption are not balanced; economic growth is too dependent on investment and exports; and domestic consumer demand is obviously insufficient.

While a global consensus on sustainable development has emerged, joint actions to promote sustainable development are still weak and uncoordinated. The gap between the developed and the poorest countries has continued to expand. Under such circumstance, the Rio+20 has indubitably attracted great expectations from the world and is undoubtedly set to have a significant and profound impact on the future sustainable development. We think the Rio+20 should focus on three principles. First, adhere to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities". We believe that global sustainable development can only be achieved under such principle while developing countries are ensured equitable right to development and assumed responsibilities that are compatible with their capacity. At the same time, developed countries should fully honor their commitments of providing official development assistance, adequate funds and advanced technology to developing countries and help them enhance capacity for environmental protection and sustainable development.

Second, stick to coordinating the three pillars of economic growth, social development and environmental protection. It is necessary for us to develop a green economy as well as eliminate poverty and promote human well-being.

Third, pursue the principle of diversifying development models. We shall respect the way of sustainable development every sovereign country chooses. Every country has its right to independently choose the path of development suited to its national conditions.

China and India, as two emerging economies consisting of one-third of the population in the world, both want to eradicate poverty and achieve modernization. The Indian saying "We produce to live, not to consume" and the ancient Chinese philosophy of "unity between heaven and man" and "the law of following the nature" are all examples of oriental wisdom. We look forward to the cooperation between China and India in Rio+20 to guarantee a sustainable development for both countries and other developing countries. We hope that the Rio+20 shall send a positive, clear and powerful message to reinvigorate international cooperation and inject new vitality into sustainable development.

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