Speaking at the opening ceremony, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said it was a response to the important progress being made in meeting environmental challenges in China, the world’s largest developing country, and to the challenges lying ahead.
“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,” Mr. Toepfer said.
He said China had a historic opportunity to leapfrog traditional polluting technologies and to adopt sustainable production and consumption policies.
The new office will work closely with the State Environmental Protection Administration of China (SEPA) and other ministries, international agencies and non-governmental organizations in implementing programmes in environmental assessment, law, education and training, management, technology transfer and innovation and natural disaster prevention.
It will also 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.
China’s Vice Minister of Environment Zhu Guangyao attended the official opening of the office, which will be co-located with other UN agencies in Beijing.
The new China office reflects recent decisions taken by UNEP’s Governing Council to strengthen UNEP’s delivery of regional-level programmes.
Earlier in the day Mr 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 and designed to provide UNEP with feedback on critical emerging issues and perspectives in the region.
At the meeting Mr Zhenhua said he welcomed 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 programme delivery. A strengthened UNEP also supports national environment agencies”, Mr. Xie Zhenhua said.
Earlier this week UNEP also facilitated a workshop to support the development 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, USA and Thailand.
During China’s celebration of the International Day for the Protection of the Ozone Layer on16 September, 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 SEPA, also organized a high level meeting on phasing out methyl bromide.
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UNEP/ROAP News Release 20003/10