Rooted in tradition, China's green roads to the low-carbon future
Since the dawn of industrialization, mankind has created unprecedented material wealth. However, this prosperity has come at a heavy cost to nature.
Humans today use as much ecological resources as if they lived on 1.6 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network. This means it now takes the Earth one year and eight months to regenerate what humans use in a year.
Putting forward the idea that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," Chinese President Xi Jinping has often reiterated that "protecting ecological environment and pushing sustainable development are our joint obligations." After all, as he puts it, "We only have one Earth."
'Well-measured use of natural resources'
Well-measured use of natural resources is the key to ecological conservation. We need to promote a simpler, greener and low-carbon lifestyle, oppose excessiveness and wastefulness, and foster a culture of living green and healthy.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 28, 2019
During the opening ceremony of the International Horticultural Exhibition in 2019, President Xi clarified the path to ecological conservation by quoting the aforementioned excerpt from "Zizhi Tongjian," or "Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance," a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography by Sima Guang (1019-1086) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).
The idea of restrained use of resources has taken on new meanings in today's China. As Xi noted in his speech, "The development model of 'killing the hens for eggs' and 'draining the lake for fish' is at a dead end. The future will be illuminated by eco-friendly development that is in accordance with the rules of nature."
Pursuing green, low-carbon and innovation-driven development is the backbone of efforts driving China toward its goal of becoming a modern socialist country.
In 2018, China incorporated the idea of ecological civilization into its Constitution for the first time. The country's latest five-year plan also paves the way for its promise of peaking carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) vows to lower energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) and carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 13.5 percent and 18 percent, respectively, during the 2021-2025 period.
China has also pledged to increase the forest stock volume by six billion cubic meters by 2030 from the 2005 level and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts.
Delivering on promise
President Xi has on many occasions stated China's commitment to ensuring harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, a goal that China pursues with deeds.
In the past 10 years, China has ranked first globally in terms of the increase in forest resources, with its afforestation area exceeding 70 million hectares. Meanwhile, 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem types and 85 percent of key wild animal populations are under effective state protection.
A country whose economic progress over the past decades was largely powered by coal is now among the world's biggest investors in renewable energy, owning 30 percent of the global installed capacity of renewable energy.
Furthermore, the share of coal energy consumption in the country dropped from 60.4 percent in 2017 to 56.8 percent in 2020, and clean energy consumption went up from 19.1 percent in 2016 to 24.3 percent in 2020, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
By 2019, the country's carbon emissions had decreased by 48.1 percent compared with the figure in 2005, reversing the trend of rapid carbon dioxide emission surge, according to a white paper on energy development released on December 21, 2020, by the State Council Information Office.
"The task is extremely challenging," President Xi said, referring to China's promises on tackling climate change, at the recent China-France-Germany video summit. "But China will deliver on its promises."