Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection: Sharing the Best Practices with China


In the year 2000 the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) launched the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection together with the State Environmental Protection Administration of China (SEPA). The goal was to help China to improve her environment, support her sustainable development and promote the cooperation between enterprises of the two countries. In the following years, the Italian side has expanded the cooperation to other Chinese government bodies and acdemic institutions, Universities-- Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the People's Government of Beijing Municipality, the Shanghai and Tianjin Municipality, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) and the State Forestry Administration (SFA).

IMELS has implemented more than 200 projects in China in collaboration with the Chinese Government departments, universities, research institutes and enterprises. Through pilot projects, cooperative research and environmental protection capacity building, it covered a number of fields in the sustainable development. (1) Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy & Renewable Energy; (2) Assist China to implement international conventions about the environment; (3) Air Monitoring; (4) Urban Sustainable Development & Eco-building; (5) Waste Recycle; (6) Sustainable Transportation; (7) Integrated Management on Water Resources; (8) Eco Conservation & Sand Control; (9) Sustainable Agriculture; (10) Capacity Building for Environmental Protection.

The total value of the projects developed so far or currently on-going is of 350 million euros. IMELS has co-financed these projects with 185 million euros, either through direct contribution to the Chinese partnering entities or through the Trust Funds established in the World Bank and other Multilateral Funds. Other co-financing has been granted by the Chinese institutions and Italian companies involved in the program, the United Nations, the Global Environmental Facility, the Word Bank and the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol on the Protection of the Ozone Layer, with at least 165 milllion euros. According to a prudent evaluation the total raised investments are about 1 billion euros. Hence, in 10 years, the 185 million euros co-financing from IMELS has mobilized huge direct or undirected investments for the development and diffusion in China of sustainable and low-carbon technologies.

In the pilot projects, IMELS and the Chinese partners are striving to bring to China the advanced technologies, equipments and methodologies from Italy and the world. The projects were useful to present these technologies in different regions and sectors adapting them to the different local circumstances. The technologies and approaches adopted in the pilot projects are more advanced than the ones presently used in China or in Italy. The cooperation has thus become a laboratory where Italy and China can develop or upgrade new environmental protocols. The investment in the pilot projects accounts for 75% of the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection.

Cooperative research is another important part of the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program. It includes a study for the research program and its commercial feasibility. This research analyzes Chinese environmental situations and their impact on the various aspects of the social and economic development. Its goal is to provide suggestions and solutions for China's environmental problems. The commercial feasibility study program seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of introducing to China advanced environmental technologies, approaches and equipments; while the feasibility studies for technology transfer under CDM, pave the way for disseminating technology and sustainable applications in China.

Capacity Building, was proposed and added later. It now plays an essential role in the Program. Through co-sponsored international conferences and large-scale training programs, IMELS promotes advanced international experiences, ideas and management approaches, to strengthen the comprehensive capability of the related staff. They serve in the Chinese government, institutions, media and NGOs. In particular they come from the environmental administration.

The Sino-Italian Program is the broadest in scope of cooperation, in participating institutions and a longest lasting among other international environmental protection projects in China.

On January 21 2003, Dr. Corrado Clini, Director General of the Department for Environmental Research and Development, IMELS, won the Award for International Cooperation on Environmental Protection. He was cited for initiating and leading a successful program of cooperation between Italy and China in the field of environmental protection; on March 28 2005, Dr. Clini obtained the International Scientific and Technological Co-operation Award, prize granted to foreigners who made a great contribution to China's sciences and technology development.

The Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection accords with China's demand in building a resource-efficient and environment-friendly society. With cooperation coverage and projects being selected by Italy and China together, all the funds and projects have focused on the priority areas of China's sustainable development.

The Program attaches significant importance to the institutional and capacity building in environmental protection and the spread of the concepts, approaches and experiences of sustainable development in China. Awareness, resolution and institutional cooperation are more important than funds and techniques in environmental protection. Therefore, a number of important think tanks of China's Central Government and other ministries have been fully engaged in the Program from the outset. This makes it possible to convert directly the suggestions of Italian and Chinese environmental experts into the policies and actions of the Central Government. In this way, the international experiences may be quickly integrated with the practices in China. Compared with other international environmental projects, focusing on techniques and equipments only, this is both an important feature of the Sino-Italian Program and an evidence of the vision of the initiator of the Program. It's also worth appreciating that, since 2003, the two sides have jointly implemented large-scale training plans. In five years, over 2,800 Chinese government officials, scholars, enterprise management personnel have participated in training classes concerning sustainable development on various topics held in Italy. It is by far the largest Sino-foreign joint training program for environmental management.

Listed in the UN partnership initiative for sustainable development on the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg in September 2002, the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection has become a part of the UN's global operation on climate changes, ozone layer protection, biodiversity protection, POPs reduction and phase-out and the prevention and control of desertification.

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