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Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

The Rupp Report: China Looks For More Sustainability

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Over the past few years, as China has become one of the biggest consumers of energy and a powerhouse of production, it has increased its ability to damage the environment very badly. However, the Chinese government is taking action to protect the environment and to encourage its industries to produce in a more sustainable way. Already with the government’s recent Five-Year Plan, the Chinese textile industry is forced to generate 70-percent less wastewater in its finishing plants than in the previous period. Some plants already have been shut down for not achieving the mandated results.

Environmental Labeling
Now there is a new effort to further reduce environmental damage. According to information from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), environmental labeling in China has developed into a complete system encompassing standards, certification, assessment and quality assurance.

Environment-labeled products cover the automotive, building materials, textiles, electronics, daily chemicals, furniture and packaging industries. Products of more than 30,000 specifications produced by some 1,500 enterprises have now passed environmental labeling certification. Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of Environmental Protection, said China has made enormous progress in its economic development, but its economic structure remains irrational, without any fundamental change to the haphazard mode of economic growth.

Bottlenecks And Obstacles
Resource and energy consumption and the weakening of the ecological environment have created bottlenecks and obstacles to sustainable economic and social development. In order to achieve harmonized development of the environment and the economy, the government has made the building of a resource-efficient and environmentally friendly society its goal and embarked on the road of sustainable development by initiating changes to the existing mode of production and way of life.

Promotion For Sustainable Consumption

Chinese authorities are taking proactive steps to promote sustainable consumption by adopting new government procurement procedures. Its policy for procuring energy-efficient products was announced in 2004. In 2006, the government promulgated the Suggestions on the Implementation of Government Procurement of Environment-Labeled Products and published procurement checklists, requiring government departments to give priority to energy-efficient and environment-labeled products in their procurement. The State Council decided to make the procurement of energy-efficient products mandatory in a further bid to promote energy conservation and environmental protection in 2007.

Green Procurement Scheme And Certification

On the sustainable consumption front, China launched the government green procurement scheme in 2006. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced two green procurement checklists covering 14 product categories from 444 enterprises. China’s environmental labeling certification provides important technical support for the government’s green procurement efforts. Up to now, 65 categories of products have been certified. China has signed agreements of cooperation and mutual assistance in environmental labeling with countries and regions like South Korea, Japan, Scandinavia, Germany, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

June 24, 2008