Deepen Exchanges, Build Consensus and Work Together to Establish a China-Europe Water Governance Partnership in the New Era
— Speech at the 6th China-Europe Water Platform High-level Dialogue
Ministry of Water Resources
The People’s Republic of China
November 7, 2018
Respected Minister Virolainen,
Respected Secretary of State Martins,
Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to attend the 6th China-Europe Water Platform High-level Dialogue co-hosted by the Ministry of Water Resources of China and the relevant EU countries. Under the theme of “Strengthening Water Governance and Promoting Green Development and Circular Economy”, we have come together to exchange ideas on water governance, share practice results, and discuss future cooperation. Today’s meeting is also the first high-level event with the EU after the institutional reform of the Ministry of Water Resources of China. It is therefore is of important significance in connecting the past and opening up the future. First of all, on behalf of the Ministry of Water Resources of China, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our colleagues from Europe and to representatives of relevant organizations in China, and express my heartfelt gratitude to all our EU friends who have long cared for and supported China’s water conservancy undertaking!
Promoting green development and circular economy is an important measure to address the impact of global climate change and overcome resource and environmental challenges. According to data provided by the UN system, since 1900, human activities have reduced the global wetland area by about 70%, two-thirds of the forest system has been degraded, 2 billion people worldwide have to drink contaminated water, 2.5 billion people live in areas with scarce water resources and 1.8 billion people are affected by land degradation and desertification. Water security is becoming an increasingly serious matter, and the challenges facing global water governance are mounting. From 2016 to 2030, an annual additional investment of 500 billion US dollars is needed to solve global water security problems, and there is still a huge funding gap in water infrastructure. Safeguarding global water security and achieving the water-related goals under the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals has become a common vision of all countries in the world today.
China and Europe are two important forces in the field of global water governance. The two sides have a long history of cooperation in the water resources field. We have carried out pragmatic cooperation in water policy dialogue, technical exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation over the years, and learned from each other, setting a model for global water partnership. This high-level dialogue will focus on water ecology and water environmental protection issues. It is more closely integrated with current changes in water governance thinking and water governance technology innovations in both China and Europe. It is of great significance for playing the roles of government and market, promoting high-quality green development, establishing a harmonious man-water relationship, and achieving sustainable use of water resources.
In recent years, the Chinese government has made a host of important strategic arrangements for promoting ecological civilization, integrating ecological civilization construction into all aspects of economic, political, cultural, and social work. In response to the prominent problems of water shortage, deterioration of water environment and grave water pollution, the Chinese government has placed water governance at a prominent position in national development. Starting with the overall situation of economic and social development, China implements a strict water resources management system to promote water resources allocation, development, use, conservation, protection and management, and ensure sustained and steady economic and social development.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is highly concerned about China’s water security issues, having put forward the water conservancy work policy of “priority to water conservation, spatial balance, systematic governance, and dual-track efforts” for in the new era and new ideas for coordinated governance of water resources, water ecology, water environment, and water disasters. Major action plans have been formulated for water security, water infrastructure network construction, disaster prevention, mitigation and relief, protection of rivers and lakes, and reservoir safety supervision. All these demonstrate the Chinese government’s steadfast determination to solve water resources problems.
Currently, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and water conservancy reform and development have also entered a new era. To promote the reform of water conservancy in the new era, we must be well aware that the principal contradiction in China’s water control has undergone profound changes. Historically, China’s water problem was mainly about the fight against floods and droughts. With economic and social development, water shortage, water ecological damage, and water environmental pollution have become common problems. Therefore, we must shift from the thinking of changing and conquering nature to adjusting human conduct and correcting human errors. The Chinese government adheres to the practice of green development and works vigorously to strengthen water security, with priority to the following aspects of water governance.
First, make water conservation a prerequisite for water resources development, utilization, protection, allocation, and scheduling, launch national water conservation campaigns, and comprehensively improve water use efficiency and effectiveness. To solve the problem of water shortage in China, water conservation is a fundamental strategic measure. We must recognize the importance of water conservation from the strategic height of realizing national sustainable development and ecological civilization construction, and regard water conservation as the basic prerequisite throughout the economic and social development and various fields. Currently, we are formulating a national water conservation action plan as a program document for water conservation nationwide in the future, focus on key areas and water-deficient areas, implement dual control of total water consumption and intensity, put in place major water-saving projects, and strengthen rigid constraints on water resources’ carrying capacity. We will also promote innovation in water-saving system, policy, technology, and mechanism, raise public awareness of water conservation, promote a shift from extensive to economical and intensive water use, and form a sound trend of water saving in society.
Second, well handle the relationship between water and economic and social development, strictly control the development and utilization of rivers and lakes, and truly implement water quota-based development. We have accelerated water allocations in important river basins, specified regional water use rights and interests, and set the upper limit for the development and use of river water resources on the premise of meeting the basic needs of ecological water use. We have safeguarded the ecological flow of important rivers and lakes, drawn the bottom line for development and utilization of rivers and lakes, maintained the basic ecological water demand of rivers and lakes, focused on ensuring the ecological base flow during dry seasons, and established a strict supervision system for ecological flow (water volume) of rivers and lakes. We adhere to the principle of “determining requirements based on water availability”, implemented major development plans and water resources-based verification for industrial layouts, tightened water extraction permit management, developed urban, land, population and production development plans based on water demand, promoted economic transformation and upgrading and green development; and adapted economic and social development to the carrying capacity of water resources and the water environment. We implement unified water scheduling in the river basins, strictly control total water use in river basins, put in place water extraction permit for river basin regions that reach or exceed the carrying capacity of their water resources, and achieve dynamic control of water resources.
Third, well handle the relationship between water and other elements of the ecosystem, promote water ecological management and restoration, and restore and expand ecological space for rivers and lakes. We implement a system of river and lake chiefs nationwide. Centering on a local government leadership responsibility system, we give full play to the coordinated role of the government departments for water conservancy, ecological environment, urban construction and agriculture, and build river and lake management and protection mechanisms featuring clear responsibility, orderly coordination, strict administration, and powerful protection. Through special campaigns, we have focused on solving outstanding problems in river and lake management, such as irregular extraction, construction and stockpiling, resolutely curbed the excessive development of river and lake water resources, optimized water resource allocation, linked up the river, lakes and reservoir systems, and improved the ecological environment of rivers and lakes. We have implemented strict groundwater resources development rules, adopt comprehensive measures such as water source replacement, adjustment of planting structure and water source conservation, stepped up the comprehensive treatment of regions with over-exploited groundwater such as North China; and gradually achieved a balance of groundwater extraction and replenishment.
Fourth, well handle the relationship between government and market in solving water problems, and use regulatory means and economic leverage to raise the level and efficiency of water governance. We will establish and improve a system of laws and regulations for water conservation, river and lake management, groundwater management, etc., and raise the level of legal support for water governance. We will improve the system for payment-based use of water resources, deepen the reform of water resources tax and water price, establish a market-oriented water price regime and dynamic adjustment mechanism, achieve rational allocation, conservation and protection of water resources, and enhance water use efficiency. We will accelerate the construction of water rights and water market, establish a sound policy system, standardize trading conduct, promote the orderly trading of water rights, leverage the role of the market in optimizing water resources allocation, and promote the flow of water resources from low-efficiency areas to high-efficiency areas.
Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen! Since its inception, China-Europe Water Platform has achieved fruitful results through high-level dialogues, joint research, project cooperation, technical exchanges, and personnel training. This dialogue will mark the beginning of a new phase of bilateral cooperation between our two sides. At the next step, we will work together to push bilateral cooperation in the water field to a new height. Here, I would like to make four suggestions for our bilateral cooperation:
First, strengthen the exchange of ideas on water governance. Under the principle of consultation, co-building and sharing, we should carry out multi-level policy exchanges and dialogues in many fields, learn from each other’s advanced ideas and experience in water conservation management and protection, water ecological treatment and restoration, water infrastructure construction, and river and lake management, make sound top-level designs for water management, innovate and improve water governance ideas in the new era, open up new thinking and create better experiences for safeguarding global water security.
Second, foster level of cooperation between the two sides. Centering on promoting the fulfillment of water-related goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we should focus on sustainable development issues such as water, green development and circular economy, and further strengthen cooperation in such fields as water conservation, sewage treatment and recycling, smart water conservancy, water ecological restoration, water environmental protection, flood control and drought relief, urban and rural water supply security, and addressing climate change impact on water resources, and lead and improve global water governance capabilities.
Third, deepen business and technical cooperation. We should seize the good opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative. Based on research cooperation, we should take economic cooperation as the goal and give full play to the technological advantages and features of China and Europe, fully implement the good partnership program, encourage and train a number of “pacemakers” in China-Europe water resources cooperation, and deepen the development of the China-Europe water platform in the business and technology fields.
Fourth, strengthen the building of the exchange platform. We should further leverage the role of the China-Europe Water Platform Secretariat as a bridge and link, fully mobilize the enthusiasm of government departments, river basin management authorities, research institutions and related enterprises, encourage more European countries and Chinese institutions to participate in platform events, and actively explore more models of pragmatic and efficient cooperation and communication, thus opening up broader space for cooperation between China and Europe.
Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen! Over the past 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and the EU have established a comprehensive strategic partnership and the four partnerships of “peace, growth, reform, and culture.” In the current situation of rising unilateralism and protectionism and increased risks and uncertainty in the world, fostering cooperation and exchanges between China and Europe in the field of water resources is of great significance for building a community with a shared future for mankind and effectively coping with the global water crisis. I sincerely hope that all attending delegates will exchange views on relevant issues, build consensus, enhance cooperation, expand the depth and breadth of China-EU cooperation in water resources, and make new contributions to the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU!
Thank you all.