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Greenpeace Chief Sees New Hope For Planet Environmentalist Hails Sino-US Co-operation

Yau Chui-yan, SCMP – Updated on Feb 08, 2009

World leaders, including the leadership in Beijing, are committed to taking on global environmental challenges despite the economic crisis, says the head of the world’s most well-known green group. Gerd Leipold, executive director of Greenpeace International, made the comment during a trip to Hong Kong last week to meet some of the organisation’s donors.

He said the changing political situation, particularly the apparent willingness of big polluters such as the United States and China to address climate change, made him optimistic about the global effort to protect the environment.

The US and China are the two biggest sources of the carbon emissions that many scientists say cause global warming.

In one welcome sign, Chinese and US officials agreed last week that climate change would become a focus of bilateral relations.

“The US and China are the two biggest players in the negotiations about climate change. Both are waiting for the other to move and commit,” Mr Leipold said. “Before, the Chinese delegates did not communicate in style and substance. But there is a big change now.”

Greenpeace China last month welcomed the inauguration of US President Barack Obama and called on him to work with China in the global fight against climate change.

“China and the US need to start talking and co-operating on the climate change issue as soon as possible,” Li Yan, Greenpeace China climate and energy campaigner, was quoted in a press release as saying.

“The decisions and policies of China and the US are crucial to the success of the next UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen this December.”

Dr Leipold, a frequent visitor to China, said he believed the central government was aware of the mainland’s environmental problems.

“China’s attention to the environment is much higher than it was in Europe when it was at the same level of development.”

He also said the people of China were paying much more attention to environmental issues than had been acknowledged by western media.

“The west has not noticed that there are many demonstrations taking place inside China because land has been taken away, and there are fights over dirty water. Actually, there is much more happening now than has been reported by western media.”

Dr Leipold also welcomed the business world’s increasing interest in working with green groups.

“For example, some food companies rely on soya, and they understand that they cannot avoid environmental  problems caused by soya plantations. While for those companies that produce biofuels, it is inevitable that they will have to talk about the problems caused by deforestation,” he said.

And despite the dire global economic situation – and Greenpeace’s reputation for carrying out occasionally radical campaigns – Dr Leipold said he believed his group would be spared the worst effects of the credit crunch.

“Our financial condition is relatively stable when compared with other non-governmental organisations as most of our donors give on their own individual basis,” he said.

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