HONG KONG – China and Japan should put aside their diplomatic differences and find common ground in protecting the environment, the Asian Development Bank said Monday.
Takehiko Nakao, the ADB’s president, said China could learn from Japan’s historical record in cleaning up its once heavily polluted environment.
“The area of environment is a good area of cooperation between these two countries,” he said in Hong Kong, where he was visiting for the Asian Financial Forum.
“Japan had serious air and water pollution in the late 1960s and in the 1970s and there were so many laws enacted and there were so many actions taken,” Nakao said.
Though China’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, it is plagued by environmental problems associated with the pace of its industrial growth.
Dense, acrid smog shrouded China’s commercial hub Shanghai and other eastern cities last month, delaying flights and spurring sales of face masks.
And levels of PM2.5 — tiny particulate matter considered very hazardous to health — hit as high as 24 times the World Health Organization’s safety guidelines.
Nakao said Japan could share its green expertise with China, including renewable energy technologies and innovations in low-emission hybrid vehicles.
He also said Chinese officials were very serious about the country’s environmental issues, but urged swift implementation of regulations to lower pollution.
Asia’s economy “cannot be sustained,” Nakao warned, if nothing is done to address the problem of pollution.
Diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Beijing cooled in 2012 amid the dispute over the Senkaku Islands.
The Manila-based ADB in October urged the two nations, along with neighbors South Korea and Mongolia, to set up a climate research network and an emissions trading scheme.
A carbon trading market could see the countries hit their greenhouse gas emission targets at a “significantly lower cost than acting alone,” it said at the time.
As an export-oriented industrial powerhouse, East Asia accounts for 30 percent of the world’s total energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, the bank said.
Beijing, whose population tops 20 million, launched a lottery system in 2011 for an annual maximum of 240,000 car registrations to curb pollution.