United Nations Opens Environmental Office in China

BEIJING, China, September 19, 2003 (ENS) - China, the world's largest developing country, now has a regional office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). At the opening ceremony today in Beijing, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said China has a historic opportunity to leapfrog traditional polluting technologies and to adopt sustainable production and consumption policies.

"With 1.3 billion people and an official goal to quadruple economic growth by 2020, China's environmental performance will not only determine the well being of its own people but will have consequences for the whole planet," Toepfer said.

China's Vice Minister of Environment Zhu Guangyao attended the official opening of the office, which is co-located with other UN agencies in Beijing.

The new Chinese UNEP office will work closely with the State Environmental Protection Administration of China and other ministries, international agencies and nongovernmental organizations in China.

Programs in environmental assessment, law, education and training, management, technology transfer and innovation and natural disaster prevention will be components of the new venture between the UN agency and China.

In China, UNEP will develop and support projects under the Global Environment Facility, an international fund to address climate change, biodiversity, land degradation, transboundary water and chemical management issues.


Xie Zhenhua is China's environment minister. (Photo courtesy State Environmental Protection Administration of China)
Earlier in the day, Toepfer and Environment Minister Xie Zhenhua chaired the first Asia-Pacific Sub-Regional Environmental Policy Dialogue, a roundtable meeting attended by ministers and eminent persons in the environment field.

The roundtable was designed to provide UNEP with feedback on critical emerging environmental issues and perspectives in the region.

At the meeting Xie said he welcomes UNEP's new national presence and its strategy for sub-regional engagement with the countries of Asia and the Pacific.

"We as ministers need to provide political support to strengthen UNEP's programme especially regional and sub-regional program delivery. A strengthened UNEP also supports national environment agencies," he said.

An environmental engineer and a lawyer with a specialty in environmental law, Xie was appointed Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration in 1998.

Earlier this week UNEP facilitated a workshop to support the growth of the Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development at Shanghai's Tongji University.

The workshop explored the potential for new multi-disciplinary and applied sustainability courses at the Institute and involved educators from leading universities in Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

During China's celebration of the International Day for the Protection of the Ozone Layer on September 16, UNEP announced that China is one of the recipients of the UNEP National Ozone Unit award in recognition of its efforts to meet compliance with the Montreal Protocol.

UNEP, together with the State Environmental Protection Administration of China, also organized a high level meeting on phasing out methyl bromide.

The new China office reflects recent decisions taken by UNEP's Governing Council to strengthen the agency's delivery of programs at the regional level.