China / Society

Report sees obstacles to progress

By Yang Wanli (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-29 07:17

Think tank says nation must boost education, income levels for sustainable development

China needs to improve its education and income levels and enhance environmental and ecological protection to achieve sustainable development by 2079, according to a report released this week by a national think tank.

The report, conducted by a group of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, evaluated sustainable development and its obstacles for 192 countries and regions based on statistics from the United Nations, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

The biggest obstacle in the way of China reaching the goal of sustainable development is the enhancement of the human development index (HDI), the report said.

"HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators. China will still take another 64 years to meet the highest level proposed by the United Nations," said Niu Wenyuan, CAS chief scientist on sustainable development.

The UN set the highest HDI as having an average life expectancy of 85 and average years of schooling of 18. The goal post for income per person is $75,000 annually.

In China, the average life expectancy was about 40 in the 1950s, which climbed to 73.5 in 2010 thanks to medical advances and improved living standards, according to official statistics.

"China has witnessed a rapid growth in average life expectancy in the past decades, but it still has a long way to go to improve the average education and income level," said Niu.

China started to implement nine-year compulsory education in 1986.

"It will take at least a decade to extend the average years of schooling of the whole population to 14," Niu added.

Niu has had his team study sustainable development for years. They built a scientific index that adopted targets proposed in the UN's Post-2015 Development Agenda.

According to the report, the year for a country to achieve sustainable development is calculated through the average time for reaching six goals: per capita GDP, carbon emissions, poverty rate, average life expectancy, education level and per unit water consumption.

Niu said a scientific system of sustainable development includes both the utilitarian requirements of economic growth, social governance and environmental safety.

"Environmental construction and ecological protection are also major impediments for China to achieve the goal," Niu said. "We should overcome the diminishing marginal benefits of economic growth through technological innovation and create wealth without causing harm to the environment."

According to the report, Norway will be the first country in the world expected to realize sustainable development in 2040, while Mozambique would be the last to reach the goal in 2141.

"The time gap between Norway and Mozambique is 101 years, about a century. It reveals the significant disparity in development in different regions worldwide," said Li Lin, a senior official with the World Wide Fund for Nature's Beijing office.

"To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, more joint efforts from all countries are in need, " Li said.

(China Daily 08/29/2015 page3)

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