By Styliani Kampani. Originally published on 2012/02/22

There are three types of gold: gold the pre­cious metal, the black gold-oil and the trans­par­ent gold-water. Which one is the most import­ant for humans? Of course the last one even though the other two seem to rule the world whereas water is taken for gran­ted. In some places of the world water is in short­age, like in Africa and in oth­ers it is abund­ant, yet toxic, like in China. Due to immense indus­trial activ­ity the water resources of the Repub­lic have been ser­i­ously pol­luted. Namely 43% of the state-monitored rivers are so pol­luted that they are unsuit­able for human con­tact. As such China is facing a cru­cial chal­lenge, which requires some fur­ther advice.

The EU knows better

Water resources is a mat­ter of global interest since China is the second largest coun­try on Earth (more than twice the size of the EU) and addi­tion­ally affects dir­ectly its numer­ous neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. Tack­ling a prob­lem like this demands a part­ner with matur­ity and com­pre­hens­ive know­ledge of the envir­on­mental gov­ernance. The EU, being a crit­ical player of the envir­on­mental issues has been closely cooper­at­ing with China in the so called water plat­form. The spe­cific action plan has cer­tain tar­gets to be achieved dur­ing the time­frame of 2007-2013. This unique col­lab­or­a­tion is based on stra­tegic dir­ec­tions and step-by-step prac­tices, which make the plan a viable and integ­rated solu­tion. With other words the EU is shar­ing exper­i­ence with the lead­ing Chinese insti­tu­tions of the plan like, the Min­istry of Water Resources and the Min­istry of Envir­on­mental Pro­tec­tion. As for the fund­ing of the pro­gram, it is jointly backed by the EU, PRC and through the EU-China RBMP (River Basin man­age­ment plan). Besides, the Republic’s strength-asset lies on its abil­ity to mobil­ize envir­on­mental pro­tec­tion activ­ity quickly and on a grand scale, as it can be seen from examples of affor­est­a­tion and wind power generation.

A mat­ter of giv­ing and taking

China’s grow­ing prob­lems on water resources could prob­ably make it a stra­tegic part­ner for the EU now that the UN Earth Sum­mit in Rio is approach­ing. Ally­ing with China would def­in­itely strengthen the EU’s aspect for clean water resources and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. This has also been assigned top pri­or­ity by the new EU Pres­id­ency coun­try, Den­mark, which has already estab­lished the EU’s cli­mate agenda. Ida Auken, the Dan­ish Min­is­ter of Envir­on­ment stated that the chal­lenges emer­ging from China could help in the swift start of inter­na­tional efforts to reduce waste and help the devel­op­ing coun­tries, which share with China a lack of resources. Besides Ida Auken, Cath­er­ine Ashton in her recent speech in the European Par­lia­ment focused on the cooper­a­tion with the BRICS (Brazil, Rus­sia, India, China and South Africa). And she meant cooper­a­tion with the fin­an­cial tingle of the word.

China rep­res­ents the EU’s second biggest trade part­ner after the USA and accord­ing to the European Com­mis­sion the EU is China’s top importer. Facts speak for them­selves, trade and fin­an­cial bond­ing is pretty bene­fi­ciary for both sides. Who does not crave for good graces with one of the major play­ers on the global chess board? It worth’s men­tion­ing that des­pite the fin­an­cial crisis, China main­tains a high growth rate up to 10%, when respect­ively in the EU coun­tries it is hardly over 3% and some­times even neg­at­ive. The warm­ing up of the bilat­eral rela­tions between the EU and China pur­sued the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel, pay­ing a three-day visit to Beijing. Closer ties with the red Dragon would boost not only the debt-ridden region, but the global eco­nomy in gen­eral. China, which has the world’s largest fin­an­cial reserves, is seek­ing invest­ment oppor­tun­it­ies around the globe, and the money would be handy for heal­ing Europe’s wounds.

Will it work?

The cooper­a­tion between China and the EU on envir­on­mental policy is already well-advanced but the import­ance of envir­on­mental pro­tec­tion and the shift­ing nature of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment pri­or­it­ies will always dic­tate the use­ful­ness of fur­ther and closer cooper­a­tion. The EU has put much effort into its dia­logue with China as it rep­res­ents a prom­ising play­mate in order to ful­fill the goals of cli­mate change. Moreover, the EU has con­trib­uted in the trans­form of China’s domestic policy in this area. Non­ethe­less there is one sig­ni­fic­ant aspect about the Chinese envir­on­mental policy and this is no other than eco­nomic growth. In fact China’s primary goal is to ensure that the EU’s engage­ment on cli­mate change sup­ports rather than hinders its high speed devel­op­ment. The two top envir­on­mental events of the year, the World Water Forum and the Earth Sum­mit will prove how much pro­gress is made and whether the EU-China col­lab­or­a­tion is “sus­tain­able” indeed.

http://world-water-forum-2012-europa.eu/IMG/pdf/110801_CEWP_Target_Action_Plan_SERPT12.pdf

http://www.earthsummit2012.org/

http://www.worldwaterforum6.org/en/

For fur­ther reading:

http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/china/documents/projects/river_basin_management_20110420_en.pdf

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/cooperate/international/pdf/brochure_eu_china_v17_en.pdf

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