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China"s success in bridging the gap between academia and the private sector was the highlight of a lead-up event over the weekend to the third United Nations Environment Assembly, the world"s highest-level decision-making body on environmental issues, which is scheduled for Dec 4-6 in Nairobi, Kenya.
The lead-up event - the UN Science Policy Business Forum on the Environment - focused on private-sector green solutions to overcome the planet"s pollution crisis and identified opportunities to grow green technology markets, driven by scientific advances.
More than 300 participants met to discuss how to strike a balance between building sustainable businesses and conserving the environment. Recommendations from the event will inform the assembly.
At the two-day event, themed "Science for Green Solutions", Chinese scholars explained how the country"s timely response to global market demand is strengthening environmental conservation.
According to Li Fengting, deputy dean of the College of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tongji University in Shanghai, universities are playing a key role in the transformation of businesses located in special economic zones. Those businesses have been hailed as the engines of China"s economic fortunes.
The university entered into a joint venture with the private sector in the development of Tongji-Rim Intellectual Economic Zone, currently China"s largest industrial design cluster.
"The joint venture started small, at about $151 million. A decade later, cash flow has grown to $5 billion. It contributes about 1 percent to Shanghai"s GDP. This model is very successful and we are replicating it here in Africa," Li said, adding that collaborations have been created with universities in Kenya, Zambia and Ethiopia.
Chen Tian, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government, said in the forum session called "Tackling Beijing"s Air Pollution Challenge: Lessons Learned" that Beijing is willing to cooperate with cities in Africa.
"The challenge Beijing is facing today will be the challenge African cities must meet tomorrow," Chen said, "We will be happy to share our experience with African countries through training and some joint research projects."
At the session, Chen shared with academia and enterprises the measures, effects, experience and lessons learned from Beijing"s air pollution control efforts. Chen has been involved in crafting environmental protection policies in the capital over the past 20 years.
"Through 20 years of pollution control, Beijing has fostered a great environmental protection industry, which has provided services for economic growth," he said.
Liu Jian, the UN Environment Programme"s chief scientist, said environmental issues need to move up the priority list for key stakeholders.
"There are 12.6 million people dying of pollution yearly. Everyone needs to be candid about this conversation and play their part," he said during the opening session of the UN Science Policy Business Forum on the Environment.
He said the need to bridge the gap between academia, entrepreneurs and policymakers is urgent because the consequences of ignorance will be difficult to reverse in the future.
"The private sector needs to take its own initiative. It should be the agent of change," he said.