In the nation's quest to clean up the environment, 2002 has been a breakthrough year. After decades of unchecked pollution fuelled by relentless economic growth, Beijing this year not only talked about cleaning up the environment but did something about it. New regulations came into force to tackle pollution, energy use and recycling. This was in addition to the 700 billion yuan (HK$659.5 billion) pledged for environmental protection up until 2005. In August, Beijing ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, a new water law was issued, aimed at conservation and efficient use rather than resource development. In October, landmark legislation meant that all new economic development projects have to be assessed for their environmental impact. Beijing also allowed the rise of citizens' environmental groups - an unusual concession for a government normally wary of independent political movements. 'To do these things has not been easy,' said Qu Geping, chairman of the National People's Congress' environmental protection and resource conservation committee. 'This generation of leaders should really be given credit. They really respect the environment.' Mr Qu has worked on environmental issues since the days of former premier Zhou Enlai. Some analysts say the government had no choice but to take action because of the worsening air and water pollution, and increasing desertification. Despite the latest efforts, experts say Beijing is not doing enough. Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, said: 'The government's success in building environmental protection into its development plans has been sporadic rather than systematic.' He said the government was not seeking innovative solutions, especially on global climate change. Beijing refuses to join any international carbon-trading emissions scheme, even though it has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions. 'I have seen increased flexibility in China's position on global climate change, but I have not yet seen creative leadership. China has not yet been a source of new ideas or innovative solutions,' Mr Nash said. Others criticise Beijing for not providing enough resources to implement environmental polices, which are often misguided. Husayn Anwar, the managing director of the Beijing-based environmental consultancy firm Sinosphere, said: 'There is a serious lack of financial and human resources below the central government level to implement the policies.' Mr Anwar said the local environmental bureaus responsible for enforcing Beijing's regulations were understaffed and often tied to the industry they were supposed to regulate. As a result of these problems, Beijing is not meeting its pollution control goals. The State Environmental Protection Bureau had said that by 2005, the nation would reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by 10 per cent of the 2000 levels, and improve the water quality of the nation's seven main waterways and lakes. But experts say the sulphur dioxide reduction programme is well behind schedule, and a report on the quality of the Yangtze River and Yellow River shows the water is getting dirtier. Despite the problems, experts say the government action is better late then never.