China project a success

Oct 31, 2002, vol. 25, no. 5
By Susan Jamieson-McLarnon

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Earl Drake, the director of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, was recently named a recipient of a Golden Jubilee medal honouring his contributions to Canada.

It could be considered an $8-million vote of confidence. But Earl Drake, the director of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, is much more circumspect, as befits a former Canadian ambassador to China.

He says the Canadian International Development Agency's recent announcement of an unusual third, five-year $8-million grant to the council is official acknowledgement of the success of this long-term international aid project.

For the past 10 years the council's Canadian headquarters has been the David See-Chai Lam centre at Simon Fraser University's Harbour Centre campus. “This has not been a typical aid program,” says Drake, “it has been a true partnership between China and Canada. Support has come from the highest level in both governments. By the time the project winds up, it is hoped that China will have put in place an effective mechanism for the implementation of sustainable development policies.”

This success of the council's work can be seen in the steady improvement in environmental protection in China in recent years and the commitment by the Chinese government to do even more.

“It has been a real breakthrough,” says Drake. “Chinese leaders now see the real cost to the degradation of the environment, their water and their cultural heritage.”

Much progress has been made on environmental issues, says Drake. “The Chinese see the economic benefits that result when you protect the environment and they are now able to manage the process.” The knowledge to deal with China's pollution and development issues has come through the establishment of working groups with experts from around the world, including Mark Jaccard, an SFU associate professor in resource and environmental management, and a key member of the energy strategies and technologies group.

Chinese officials have also visited SFU for training. Sessions with Chad Day, professor emeritus of resource and environmental management, introduced the Canadian way of thinking on environmental questions, the democratic process in the classroom and the use of dialogue in resolving issues.

“We are definitely making a difference in a country that is important to the whole world. China takes Canada, and what we are doing, very seriously,” says Drake.

The council membership is divided equally between Chinese and foreign members, with rep-resentatives from some of the world's leading development and environmental agencies, universities and corporations.

Canada has been a lead donor to the $22 -million project. Other funding has come from several European Union nations as well as Japan and China.

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