China celebrates 1st National Ecology Day amid efforts to meet carbon goals
  ·  2023-08-16  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

This aerial photo taken on July 3 shows a view of Xiajiang Village of Chun'an County, east China's Zhejiang Province (XINHUA)

China is on August 15 celebrating its first National Ecology Day as it moves steadily toward delivering on its carbon peak and carbon neutrality pledges.

The country's first National Ecology Day has "Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" as its theme, a core concept in China's pursuit of ecological progress.

Making instructions on National Ecology Day, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the whole of society to vigorously promote and act as role models in practicing the concept.

Xi, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said that ecological conservation is of vital importance for the sustainable development of the Chinese nation, calling it a major political issue that concerns the mission and purpose of the CPC as well as a major social issue that bears upon public wellbeing.

Xi proposed the concept on Aug. 15, 2005, when he was visiting Yucun Village in east China's Zhejiang Province, where he praised the villagers' decision to shut down limestone mines and cement factories after the industry caused severe damage to the local environment. Xi was then the Party chief of Zhejiang.

Over the years, the concept has evolved into a collective belief among Chinese people, and the pursuit of green, circular and low-carbon development has become a joint endeavor for all regions and authorities in the country.

The green transformation of the world's second-largest economy also offers the world a Chinese approach to sustainable development.

Green action 

China will formulate policies and measures to promote the comprehensive green transformation of economic and social development, said Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), at the opening ceremony of a National Ecology Day event in the city of Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province.

The country will thoroughly implement the comprehensive conservation strategy, accelerate the transition toward energy conservation and carbon reduction in key sectors, build a waste recycling system, and promote green, low-carbon and high-quality development, he said.

The NDRC will also accelerate the planning and development of a new energy system, continue to improve policies for green and low-carbon economic development, and improve the system for market-based allocation of resources and environmental elements.

China has been playing an active role in global environmental and climate governance, pledging to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

The country's green drive has brought great changes: a decrease in carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), the rapid development of new-energy industries, cleaner air and water, and increased forest and grassland areas.

Over the past decade, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP declined 34.4 percent and its PM2.5 density fell 57 percent. The country's installed non-fossil energy power generation capacity exceeded 1.38 billion kilowatts -- a milestone achievement in exceeding the installed capacity of coal. Its forest coverage has risen from 21.63 percent to 24.02 percent.

These great ecological changes have brought a strong sense of happiness and a sense of achievement to the people.

"We are convinced because we have seen with our own eyes that the 'Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets' concept is a scientific development concept that serves the interests of all people," Yu Xiaoping, deputy Party chief of Yucun Village, said in the forest-covered, hillside county of Anji in Huzhou.

Yucun Village has embraced green development and developed into a popular tourist destination with a picturesque rural landscape.

"Summer is a peak travel season and our bed-and-breakfast is often fully booked," said Ge Yuande, 62, a Yucun Village native who used to be a miner.

"A beautiful environment, families living together, and no worries over the safety of mining work or over health problems caused by pollution -- This is the life I dreamed of," Ge said.

Chinese approach

Mehraz Karami, 30, is from Iran and has been living in Zhuangshang Village in Huzhou for four years. He came to China in 2012 to study fine arts and traveled widely before settling down in the village and opening an art studio.

"There are fresh air, bamboo forests and rivers here. I enjoy the life here," he said. "The village is close to nature and also has modern working and living facilities."

"The most common sentence I hear here is: 'Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets,'" Karami said. "My understanding of it is that as long as human beings protect nature and have a good ecological environment, the economy, culture and society will become better and better."

"Local villagers told me that there used to be no clean drinking water at home," said Nabizhan Mukhametkhanuly, a professor at Kazakhstan's Al-Farabi Kazakh National University who visited Zhejiang in 2018. But through ecological restoration and the development of rural industries, the locals improved their environment and now live affluent lives, he said.

"Kazakhstan also has a large number of villages, and this model of rural development serves as an important reference for us," he said.

Zhejiang Province has become a shining example of how China has "waged war" on pollution and benefited from green growth, said Erik Solheim, former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. He noted that economic growth in China used to come with a lot of pollution, but now China is a world leader in green growth.

China's green transformation over the last decade stands out in the world, and no other nation has embarked on a green development journey with the same speed and determination, Solheim said.

While celebrating its great progress over the last decade, China should set its eyes on a circular economy, create an ecological civilization and a beautiful China, accelerate its green technology revolution, and use the Belt and Road Initiative as a vehicle for global investment and shared best practices, he said.

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