BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- UN Under-Secretary General Achim Steiner said on Wednesday that China is poised for greener growth and a better environment.
Steiner, also UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) executive director, is in Beijing for an advisory meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday on China's environment and development issues for the 13th five-year plan (2016-2020).
Steiner told Xinhua that environment is not only about prevention of bad things, it is also the opportunity for future economic development.
Renewable energy, energy efficiency, retrofitting in buildings, and public transport can contribute to job creation, economic growth and strengthen the economy, Steiner said.
"Resource efficiency aspect in China's economy is an area which requires significant investment and innovation, because it is part of investing in future competitiveness," he said.
As a frequent visitor to China, Steiner said he had seen Beijing in some of its worst moments as well as the blue sky during the Olympic Games in 2008.
"I think what both China's leadership and its people have decided is that moving towards an economy that can deal with air pollution is now a top priority," he said.
"I think that will allow China hopefully in a shorter period of time than perhaps some other countries in the last century to overcome this very heavy pollution footprint," Steiner said.
China's pace in fighting pollution will depend on innovation, phasing out of old infrastructure, heavy emitting industries investing in new technology, promoting more efficient buildings as well as consumer preference for better certification, Steiner said.
He acknowledged there is a large amount of investment in hybrid power and electric vehicles and the Chinese government encourages consumers, domestic and international producers to ensure that cars have low emissions.
Although the industry in China is still at starting point, its market size, regulatory measures and emission standards introduced will make China a "significant driver" for electric and other fuel vehicles, according to him.
Steiner believes electric vehicles would be a little bit like cell phones in their early period. "People thought this is only for some rich people, it would not become part of the mass market."
"Ten years from now, many of us will be driving electrically charged vehicles because there is a significant transformation happening already," he said.
China's new energy vehicle production jumped threefold year on year to 25,400 in the first quarter of 2015 thanks to intense government promotion and support.
In March, the Ministry of Transport set a target of 300,000 new energy vehicles on China's roads by 2020: 200,000 new energy buses and 100,000 new energy taxis and delivery vehicles.