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Interview: China backs Arctic Council agenda of environment over development

English.news.cn   2013-10-23 20:11:10            

WHITEHORSE, Canada, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- China agreed with the Arctic Council that development in the Arctic region should abide by local regulations and environmental requirements, according to a senior official.

China pledged to make a greater contribution through its new official observer role in the council, Jia Guide, deputy director-general with the Department of Treaty and Law under China's Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday in an interview with Xinhua.

Resource development in the Arctic was a possibility, but not a priority for China, said Jia, who was speaking in the Yukon capital Whitehorse where Canada hosted the eight-member intergovernmental organization's discussion.

He said the region played an important role in cooling the earth's atmosphere, and any commercial development would "have to bear in mind the special environment requirements."

"We have to set higher thresholds, or higher standards, for commercial development in this region," he said.

"When we talk about commercial development, first and foremost is the respect for local regulations of relevant countries (controlling the Arctic). Then comes the concern for environmental protection. Only with the satisfaction of the relevant requirements of the local countries and the higher standards can a commercial development be carried out," Jia said.

The area contains 30 percent of the world's natural gas deposits and 20 percent of global oil reserves below its frigid waters, as well as fish, minerals, fresh water and other resources.

Patrick Borbey, chair of the Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials, told Xinhua the people of the north wanted development, but not at any price.

He said protection of the Arctic's fragile eco-system was paramount.

"We want to see development happen in the north, the people of the north want to see development, but they don't want to see it at any cost, at any expense," he said.

"They want to see respect for the environment, respect for the wildlife, for the traditional practices, so that people can have the benefit of the development, but at the same time we can see sustainable protection of our environment for many, many generations to come," he said.

China is one of six new observer countries participating in the Whitehorse meeting for the first time. The other five are Singapore, Japan, India, South Korea and Italy.

China could never be a full member as the country is not physically connected to the Arctic, but it could share in and contribute to the scientific research generated by the organization, Jia said.

Borbey said it was important to have new observer states from outside the Arctic region, as decisions and actions taken elsewhere had an impact on the northern-most region.

"And we know that the changes that are happening in the Arctic are having an impact also in China and very, very far from the Arctic. So by working together, by collaborating, by contributing, sharing our science, I think we can all achieve better outcomes," he said.

Jia said: "It is an opportunity for China to make a contribution to the Arctic Council. By attending the meeting, we feel a high expectation from the Arctic Council members for the active participation from the observer states and we are ready to make more contributions in a more active way."

The benefit of participating in the three-day meetings was primarily from a scientific aspect, he said.

"Using scientific research, like following the progress of climate change, and also with the accelerated melting of ice and snow, there is a possibility for marine passage through the northeast passage that's very, very important," he said.

At the current meeting, the Canadian agenda includes promoting development for more than four million people living in the eight Arctic states, responsible resource development, and safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities.

Founded in 1996, the Arctic Council's full members are Russia, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland.

Canada, which initiated the organization through the 1996 Ottawa Declaration, assumed the Arctic Council chairmanship earlier this year for a second time, a position the country will hold through early 2015.

Editor: An
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