"The agreements reached in Beijing should send a positive signal of environmental co-operation around the world," said Toepfer. "This is the direction to go, and other countries should follow their example," he said.
The United States and China established a number of joint programmes to address environmental degradation, cleaner uses of energy, and climate change. The two countries also agreed to expand cooperation in the areas of health sciences and natural resource management. Specific agreements on air quality and land-use were signed, and other agreements reached on fighting diseases, preserving endangered species, emergency preparedness, freshwater and marine resources conservation, and natural disaster reduction.
Commenting on the fact that many of the programmes agreed to by Presidents Clinton and Jian Zeming reflect UNEP's new areas of concentration, Toepfer said this was also an important step forward for UNEP, and the organization stands ready to assist in any way it can. "Furthermore," he said, "I hope the two countries further share their experience with UNEP, to enable us to pass on this valuable information and practices to other countries."
Toepfer welcomed three of the initiatives which have particular relevance to UNEP's work, namely those which cover issues related to energy and cleaner production, freshwater, and information and emergency preparedness.
"UNEP is strengthening its work related to cleaner production, including advice to developing countries on cleaner and safer production," said Toepfer. "On freshwater, UNEP will strengthen its capacity to deal with both environmental quality issues as well as the environmentally sound management of fresh water resources. These two issues are clearly a high priority for China and the U.S., and also for UNEP," he said.
Making reference to the report of the United Nations Task Force (which he chaired) on the Environment and Human Settlement that was submitted to Secretary-General, Kofi Annan on 15 June, Toepfer went on to highlight the importance of emergency preparedness.
Quoting the Task Force report, he said that a key role for the United Nations was to monitor and assess existing and emerging environmental problems, alert policy makers and the public to them, and advocate and coordinate measures and action to tackle these problems, thereby reducing future risks. UNEP will play a leading role in this area.
"Protecting the environment is a major challenge for China. It should also be a concern for the whole world," said Toepfer. "Combining economic growth with environmental caution is our main responsibility, and in this regard, UNEP welcomes the positive steps in this direction announced last week," he said.
Note to Editors
China and the U.S. signed the Sino-U.S. Protocol of Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Science and Technology in 1980. Since then many cooperative activities have been carried out, mainly in the field of joint research. In 1996, the two countries decided to establish the Sino-U.S. Forum on Environment and Development. At the recent Summit meeting, the two sides agreed to hold the second meeting of the Forum in Washington.
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