China expected to play a greater role in global environmental governance
Updated 15:38, 23-Oct-2022
Tu Ruihe
China expected to play a greater role in global environmental governance

China expected to play a greater role in global environmental governance.mp3


Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Ruihe Tu is the Head of UNEP China Office. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

China has long maintained a good cooperative relationship with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). UNEP was established in Nairobi, Kenya in 1973, and soon afterwards the Chinese government set up a permanent mission to UNEP in Nairobi. In September 2003, UNEP China Office was established in Beijing, becoming the first country office of UNEP in the world. The two sides have always supported each other, and the practical cooperation has continued to advance and led to remarkable results.

Since entering the new era, China has deepened its understanding and developed more sophisticated philosophy about environmental protection and sustainable development. China has integrated its drive on ecological protection into all aspects and processes of economic, political, cultural and social development. Stricter environmental protection laws and regulations have been passed, while more effective working mechanisms have been established. China has rolled out more effective policy measures and stepped up law enforcement in this regard. For example, the Chinese government issued the actions plans on the prevention and control of air, water and soil pollution. As a result, the environment has improved at an unprecedented speed.

China has carried out massive air pollution control actions, ranging from the control of single pollutants such as soot, dust, sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (COD), to the control of total pollutant emissions and "target responsibility system" of pollution control, etc. The great achievements made in recent years in particular have been widely recognized by the international community.

Beijing, for example, has made relentless efforts to improve air quality and actively respond to climate change, with remarkable results. Over the past two decades, Beijing has carried out massive action plans such as "Clean Air" and "Blue Sky Defense" step by step. The city has also been proactive in addressing the challenge of climate change. The results are fairly notable: From 2015 to 2020, Beijing's air quality has improved across all indicators and such improvement showed no sign of abating. In particular, the annual average PM2.5 concentration dropped for five years in a row by a cumulative 53 percent to 38 μg/m3 by 2020. The annual average PM2.5 concentration fell further to 33 μg/m3 in 2021. For the first time, all six air quality indicators met the national standards. The intensity of carbon dioxide emissions has continued to fall.

The amount of carbon dioxide emitted for generating 10,000 yuan worth of GDP output has stayed at the record low level in China for many years. In particular, through the application of advanced green and low-carbon technologies, renewable energy, etc., and with the support and participation of stakeholders and the general public, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games achieved carbon neutrality and established itself as a shining example for the rest of the world. In 2019, UNEP co-authored and published a report entitled A Review of 20 years' Air Pollution Control in Beijing in cooperation with China, highly praising Beijing's policy measures and achievements in air pollution control. It argued that no other major city in the world has achieved such substantial improvements within such a short period of time.

Shahe Reservoir, the suburban water system has gradually returned to its original ecology, Beijing, China, June 20, 2021. /CFP
Shahe Reservoir, the suburban water system has gradually returned to its original ecology, Beijing, China, June 20, 2021. /CFP

Shahe Reservoir, the suburban water system has gradually returned to its original ecology, Beijing, China, June 20, 2021. /CFP

Over the past few decades, China has carried out the world's largest ecological restoration and greening projects, accumulating a wealth of good practices and success stories. China has launched a major protection campaign for its two mother rivers, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, and established the guiding principles of prioritizing ecological conservation and boosting green development. Under the drive to promote well-coordinated environmental conservation and avoid excessive development, the Chinese government has formulated the Ecological and Environmental Protection Plan of Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB), the Yangtze River Protection Law, the Outline of the Yellow River Basin's Ecological Protection and High-quality Development Plan, the Action Plan on Yellow River Ecological Protection and Governance and the forthcoming Yellow River Protection Law. Water pollution control, aquatic life protection and ecological restoration in the two major river basins have got into the fast track.

Since Xi Jinping announced the goals of achieving peak carbon emission before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060 at the UN General Assembly in September 2020, China's central government departments, local governments, enterprises, universities, research institutes and think tanks have worked at the "speed of China's bullet trains" to address climate change and promote greenhouse gas emission reduction. The policy system and roadmap for addressing climate change have been put in place. All government departments, local authorities, business communities and social groups have been taking active actions to adopt effective measures on emission reduction.

Given that the causes and negative impacts of the global environmental problems we face today are no longer confined to individual countries or regions, upholding multilateralism and global cooperation is the key to tackling the crisis. From a global perspective, as the largest developing country, China's commitment to solving its own environmental problems is itself a great contribution to the protection of the global ecological environment. In the meantime, China is a staunch advocate of multilateralism and the spirit of international cooperation, and supports regional and global environmental protection initiatives with practical actions. China is a signatory to many major global environmental conventions, including the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. China has actively fulfilled its due obligations under these conventions, making significant contributions to the protection of regional and global environment.

The report delivered by Xi Jinping at the 20th CPC National Congress depicts the ambitious goals of basically realizing socialist modernization by 2035, and building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of this century. In this process, China will stay committed to promoting the harmony between humanity and nature, building a community of shared future for mankind, and creating a new form of human civilization.

It's also made clear that China will adopt strategic initiatives to accelerate the transition to a model of green development; intensify pollution prevention and control; enhance diversity, stability, and sustainability in the ecosystems; accelerate the implementation of major projects to protect and restore important ecosystems; move ahead with major projects to protect biodiversity; facilitate the recovery and recuperation of grasslands, forests, rivers, lakes and wetlands; and move towards green and low-carbon production and lifestyle. All these messages are very encouraging and confidence-inspiring, as they can provide strong impetus to international community in dealing with the current complex and grim global ecological and environmental challenges, thereby highlighting China's role as a leader in global ecological and environmental protection.

UNEP has always paid close attention to and supported China's green development and ecological protection initiatives, as well as China's effort to achieve the "30·60" decarbonization goal and build a beautiful China. China's growing prowess and its faith in multilateralism provide ample room for further cooperation between China and UNEP. We look forward to China's continued efforts in improving domestic environment, while sharing with the international community, especially developing countries, the successful experience and good practices in reducing pollution and carbon emission, improving the environment, and promoting green development.

China is also expected to help developing countries to strengthen capacity building in environmental governance and share practical green, low-carbon and clean technologies under the framework of South-South cooperation, so as to work together with other countries to achieve global sustainable development goals, jointly protect the global ecological environment, and promote the building of a community of shared future for mankind.

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