By Wang Fengjuan
In November 2018, the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office (FECO) of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) of the People’s Republic of China was formally established to manage the Environmental Convention Implementation Technical Center, China-ASEAN Environmental Protection Center, China Center for SCO Environmental Cooperation and Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Center. Zhou Guomei, deputy director-general of FECO, talked about cooperation on green development under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China-ASEAN environmental cooperation in an exclusive interview with China Report ASEAN.
China Report ASEAN: What are focal points for BRI cooperation on green development?
Zhou Guomei: President Xi Jinping has stressed on many occasions that efforts should be made to deepen cooperation on environmental protection, pursue a vision of green development, reinforce protection of the ecology and environment and build a green Silk Road. In March 2015, the Chinese government published Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which declared that the country “should promote ecological progress, increase cooperation in conserving the eco environment, protect biodiversity and tackle climate change.”
In September 2013, the MEE established the China Center for SCO Environmental Cooperation under the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In November 2017, the MEE established the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Center under the framework of Lancang-Mekong cooperation, published the Lancang Mekong Environmental Cooperation Strategy and launched the Green Lancang-Mekong Initiative. In July 2018, it signed an MoU to jointly build the China-Cambodia Environmental Cooperation Center and set up an affiliate office under the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia. In December 2017, the ministry signed a Letter of Intent to Build China-Africa Environmental Cooperation Center with the United Nations Environment Programme and Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, after which the Interim Secretariat of the China-Africa Environmental Cooperation Center was established in August 2018.
In December 2017, the MEE and the Municipal Government of Shenzhen launched the BRI Environment Technology Exchange and Transfer Center in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. The MEE also facilitated the establishment of China-ASEAN demonstration bases for environmentally sound technology and environmental industries in Yixing (Jiangsu Province) and Wuzhou (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region). Such industrial parks and bases, including the Environmental Protection Technology Industrial Park in Yixing, are helping exploration of a new path for cooperation in international environmental protection industries.
China Report ASEAN: Considering that ASEAN is a priority and a major partner in promoting the BRI, how are China and ASEAN cooperating on environmental protection?
Zhou: Since the BRI was introduced, cooperation between China and ASEAN on environmental protection has developed rapidly through various cooperation initiatives in specific areas promoted by joint declarations and action plans signed during China-ASEAN Summits. In 2013, the Action Plan of China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation (2014-2015) was adopted, outlining specific plans of action in six priority areas of cooperation to serve the ASEAN-China Strategy on Environmental Cooperation (2011- 2015), including organizing the annual ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum, implementing the ASEAN-China Green Envoys Program and developing China-ASEAN Environment Outlook. In 2016 and 2017, China and ASEAN designed and adopted a strategy on environmental cooperation and a corresponding action plan for the five-year period from 2016 to 2020 and specifically strengthened cooperation in policy dialogue on environmental cooperation, biodiversity and ecological conservation, environmental industries, technology exchanges, environmental management capacity building and joint research on global environmental issues. Environmental cooperation between China and ASEAN has become more institutionalized and shaped into a mode centered around dialogue and capacity building and featuring cooperation through forums, seminars and training.
This year marks the 16th anniversary of China-ASEAN policy dialogue on environmental cooperation. Both sides have achieved great things in environmental cooperation. China and ASEAN have successfully held the ASEAN China Environmental Cooperation Forum, launched the China-ASEAN Partnership for Eco-friendly Urban Development, established a joint platform on environmental information sharing and released China-ASEAN Environment Outlook. At the same time, both sides received positive results in biodiversity maintenance, ecological conservation, environmental industry promotion, technology exchange and the Green Silk Road Envoys Program.
China Report ASEAN: What is the Green Silk Road Envoys Program all about?
Zhou: The Green Silk Road Envoys Program aims to promote public awareness and education on environmental protection. The first stage of this program started in 2011, targeting implementation of the ASEAN-China Green Envoys Program. In 2016, the program was updated into the Green Silk Road Envoys Program, targeting BRI countries.
In 2011, China and ASEAN countries joined the ASEAN Secretariat in adopting the framework paper of the China-ASEAN Green Silk Road Envoys Program. According to the document, the goals of the program are to build the capacity of managers in promoting Green Innovation in green development, increase the environment protection awareness of Green Pioneers and enhance the environmental protection responsibilities of Green Entrepreneurs. From 2011 to 2016, the China-ASEAN Environmental Protection Center (now Foreign Economic Cooperation Office) organized 17 activities and welcomed a total of 1,000 participants including officials from departments on environmental protection, teenagers and students, non-governmental volunteers, professionals and scholars. Since 2016, China has proposed construction of a platform to exchange environmental technologies and share information to widen the benefits of the Green Envoys Program, help China’s environmental protection industries go global, facilitate sharing and cooperation on experiences and technologies on regional environmental management and help develop the green BRI. By the end of 2018, 17 activities had been organized under the program to address various issues including complementary BRI industrial capacity, industrial technology cooperation, atmospheric and water pollution prevention and control and prevention and control of environmental pollution caused by solid waste.
China Report ASEAN: The China-ASEAN Partnership for Eco-friendly Urban Development was launched at the 2016 ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum. How is the program looking today?
Zhou: The China-ASEAN Partnership for Eco-friendly Urban Development is the flagship programin the field of Environmentally Sustainable Cities. Since its launch, a series of seminars have been organized to develop the China-ASEAN Partnership for Eco-friendly Urban Development. The partnership intends to create a platform for cooperation between governments, enterprises, research institutions and various organizations, promote pragmatic collaboration between China and ASEAN on protecting the urban environment, enhance links among cities in China and ASEAN and create a favorable environment for enterprises to participate in cooperation on environment protection. At the Seminar on ASEAN-China Cooperation for Eco-Friendly Cities held in March 2019, participants discussed editing China ASEAN Environment Outlook 2 (CAEO- 2): Experiences and Cases on Eco Friendly Cities. Participants agreed to select typical eco-friendly cities in China and the 10 ASEAN countries and survey their practical experience on protecting the urban environment and promoting sustainable development. Through experience sharing and case demonstration, cities throughout China and ASEAN can learn from each other to carry out excellent environmental management and provide a powerful impetus for sustainable development.