China can inspire developing nations on environmental sustainability: UNEP chief

Updated 2016-11-26 14:18:41 Xinhua

China has made great achievements in its endeavor for environmental sustainability over the past decade, and it can inspire developing nations to move on the right course, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheim on Friday.

"China has developed faster than many other nations for decades, and that is a lesson that if China can move so fast on development, others can also," Solheim told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

"African and Southeast Asian nations can be inspired by China as it can move so fast on development and on the environment," said Solheim, who succeeded Achim Steiner in May as the UNEP chief.

Solheim noted that China has ratified the Paris climate deal ahead of the G20 summit, where Chinese leader also reaffirmed China's commitment to pursuing a green and inclusive growth.

"We definitely have a focus on Asia, China in particular, because China is now a main driver of global environmental agenda," the UNEP chief said.

Solheim hailed China for its efforts at building mass transport system and stepping up development of electric vehicles to curb pollution in big cities.

"China is not only rapidly building mass transport system in its own big cities, but also assisting other developing nations to do the same, and this will bring forward a huge number of job opportunities if you move in this direction," he said.

"But all this needs political leadership, otherwise it won't happen," he added.


Solheim is in Copenhagen to attend a roundtable meeting organized by the UNEP as part of series of global consultations on public-private partnerships for sustainable development.

He said the main issue at the meeting is "to see environment and climate as an opportunity for business."

"The main drive of this understanding is that climate and environment is not a cost. Instead, it's an enormous opportunity for new, green inspiring jobs," Solheim said.

He took the coal sector of the United States as an example, saying that there are 50,000 jobs in the coal industry, but 2 million news jobs in renewable industries.

"It's very clear where the future lies. We'll see continuous investment in the future. If you want to stick to the old rather than the new, you'll lose yourself," he said.

As the new head of UNEP, Solheim said he wanted to turn it into a leading agency on working with business, although historically UN was not so much about business.

"The strong advice I got from the meeting is to provide platforms for equal partnership between business and governments in the areas of circular economy so that we can reuse rather than waste, such as in the area of plastics," Solheim said.

He said UNEP had a strong focus on business in China, and signed agreements with Chinese businesses under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative.

He warned some governments of cutting budget on green sectors as "self-defeating policies."

"If you don't invest in new green business you will miss a lot of new job opportunities," Solheim said.

"If you cut down on development assistance rather than move on green economy, you are shooting yourself in the foot," he said.

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