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China, ASEAN join for greener future

Source:   Time:

by Xinhua writers Wang Jian, Xiong Hongming

NANNING, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- The first China-ASEAN Expo, which was held in 2004, was an eye opener for many in the Chinese business community, and especially for Ma Zhaojian, as it encouraged him to go to Vietnam and apply his entrepreneurial skills there.

But much to Ma's disappointment, success there was elusive. As he tried selling solar water heaters to Vietnamese consumers, he often got suspicious eyes and the cold shoulder.

"You mean, you just expose it to the sun and then you get hot water?" local people said, many of whom were still burning firewood to heat water.

Yet Ma persevered, and eventually, with help from local dealers, he converted more and more Vietnamese into loyal customers.

And Ma didn't stop in Vietnam. He has expanded his business to other ASEAN countries, such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

"ASEAN has a vigorously expanding market for green products, as people's environmental awareness is growing by the day and the governments of ASEAN countries are paying more attention on the development of the green economy," Ma said.

The ongoing 8th China-ASEAN Expo, with the theme of environmental protection cooperation, is providing a platform for experts, officials and business people like Ma an opportunity to gather together and explore ways to boost the development of the green economy in China and ASEAN.

"As our economies continue to integrate and expand, we must not allow them to do so in a way that will consign future generations to wealth without the wonders of the natural world," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the opening ceremony. "We can build an ice rink or put a roof on a football stadium, but we cannot yet do the same with glaciers or the ozone layer."

The six-day Expo, held in Nanning, capital of southwest Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, will run from Oct. 21 to 26.

The ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum, with a theme of innovation for green development, was held on the sideline at the expo on Saturday. The forum was attended by government officials and entrepreneurs from China and ASEAN.

Misran Bin Karmain, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN, said ASEAN countries, to some degree, have been developing their economies at the expense of the environment.

"We need to change our development patterns and seek sustainable development," Misran said, adding that ASEAN is looking forward to cooperating with China in terms of technology and policies regarding the green economy.

Li Ganjie, vice-minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, said ASEAN and China, as newly-industrialized economies, all face common challenges in environmental protection and economic development.

Achieving sustainable development has always been at the top of the agenda for China-ASEAN dialogue and cooperation, Li said.

FRUITS OF THE PAST

During the past two decades since the establishment of the China-ASEAN dialogue, concerns over the environment have been evolving into an ever more important field for China-ASEAN cooperation.

At the 11th ASEAN-China Summit held in Singapore in 2007, nations present agreed that the environment should be added to the list of priority areas for cooperation, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao put forward the China-ASEAN Strategy on Environmental Protection Cooperation 2009-2015.

Following the adoption of the initiative, the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center (CAEC) was established in Beijing in 2009.

Since its pilot operation in 2010, the center successfully organized the ASEAN-China Seminar on Green Industry Development and Cooperation in November 2010, and the ASEAN-China Workshop on Environmental Enforcement in March 2011.

"Cooperation on environmental issues has taken root in many of Asia's regional and sub-regional initiatives, and ASEAN and China can learn much from these ongoing environmental cooperative efforts in implementing the ASEAN-China Strategy on Environmental Protection Cooperation," said Bindu N. Lohani, vice president of the Asian Development Bank, at the ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum.

Lohani highlighted the Core Environment Program (CEP) under the Greater Mekong Subregion program (GMS).

The GMS is a comprehensive program of economic cooperation among Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The CEP, launched in 2006, is based on GMS countries commitment to sustainable use of shared natural resources and the environment.

The CEP, whose flagship component is the Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative, has provided a framework for mobilizing increased funding for environmental issues and reorienting the nature and quality of development toward more sustainable outcomes, Lohani said.

GREENER FUTURE

Tang Dingding, director-general of China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said as China is projecting to make its green industry a new engine for economic growth, the government will make efforts to facilitate the development of the China-ASEAN market for green products and services.

Additionally, under the ASEAN-China Green Envoy Program, which was initiated on Saturday in Nanning, China and ASEAN countries will conduct more communication and exchanges among governments, corporations and social organizations in order to promote green development, according to Tang.

However, experts warn there are multiple challenges and risks in the way of green development for China and ASEAN.

Young-Woo Park, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) regional office for Asia and the Pacific, said China and ASEAN will confront multiple problems, including the lack of infrastructure and financial and human resources, and the problems can only be solved by strengthened cooperation among different nations.

"As home to over half of the world's population, Asia must confront a massive wave of urbanization and changing demographic profiles," said Lohani. "Asia's long-term competitiveness will depend heavily on how it controls the intensity of its resource use."

It is in Asia's best interest to encourage, invest and cooperate in innovation and clean technology to maintain its impressive growth momentum, Lohani added.

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