19 May 2015 13:38

Lancaster University has launched a joint China-UK research centre to advance environmental policy and practice.

The Joint Research Centre for Environmental Sciences and Policy will enable scientists from the two countries to share their nations’ knowledge and experience, and to carry out joint research projects into issues of global environmental significance.

The Centre aims to help find solutions to some of the major environmental problems facing China, where both the Government and the population are becoming increasingly concerned about water, air and land pollution.

The Centre, which will have offices in both countries, is a partnership between the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES), Lancaster University and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).

CRAES is the research arm of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, providing the scientific evidence and advice which underpins Chinese government policy on the environment.

CEH is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. It has scientists and laboratories within Lancaster Environment Centre, which was recognised in the recent Research Excellence Framework as one of the UK’s top centres for the real world impact of its environmental research.

The new Centre was officially opened by Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mark E Smith, at an international summit on Catchment Management held at the Lancaster Environment Centre in May, the first in a series of annual workshops organised by the new Centre.

Professor Yuan Zhang, director of the Water Institute of CRAES, said: “In China we are having a very big water programme, running between 2008 and 2020. The Chinese government is investing 34 billion yuan in technology to control water pollution. Catchment management is another method of pollution control that we are interested in. We hope to collaborate further with Lancaster to support the catchment approach.”

Dr Andy Sweetman, from the Lancaster Environment Centre, who organised the workshop, said: “The UK learnt a lot after the industrial revolution about how poor water quality impacts human health and the environment and implemented a number of solutions, such as treating wastes and effluents before discharge and closing down or modifying heavily polluting industry.

“We have to remember, however, that the Chinese context is very different and our experiences will not always be directly applicable.  We want to think about the challenges that we and the Chinese are facing and find commonalities, how to use our science to help their science to come up with solutions.

“The next stage in our collaboration will be to identify research issues and opportunities by deepening our understanding through staff exchanges. We have already identified some very interesting research projects to be undertaken together.”

Professor Alan Jenkins, Deputy Director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Director for Water and Pollution Science, said, “The UK and China face similar environmental problems in terms of cleaning up the legacy of the past and in defining new environmental protection policy for the future.

“The new Centre will facilitate continued efforts between the UK and China to improve the environmental science to policy process, which is essential in providing solutions to these complex issues.”

A policy paper based on the learning which came out of the workshop will be published shortly and a director of the new Centre will be appointed this summer.