Environment forum builds consensus
  ·  2022-08-01  ·   Source: NO.31 AUGUST 4, 2022
The 2022 World Youth Development Forum's thematic forum on Climate Action and Green Development took place in Beijing on July 22. The event was jointly organized by the All-China Youth Federation and Tsinghua University with assistance from the College Alliance for Youth Ambassadors. Officials and scholars provided insights on climate change and China's green development. Edited excerpts of their views follow:

Li Gao 

Director General of the Climate Change Department of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China 

Li Gao

Green and low-carbon development is key to addressing climate change, a serious challenge facing the whole world. Over recent years, China has continued improving its national strategy on climate change, promoted industrial restructuring, enhanced energy conservation and efficiency of use, reformed market mechanisms and expanded forest carbon sinks.

China has seen rapid energy transition. The share of coal in primary energy consumption in the country dropped from 72.4 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2021, and that of non-fossil energy rose to 16.6 percent last year. China's installed capacity of hydro, wind, solar and biomass power ranks first in the world. It has been promoting industrial restructuring, boosting energy conservation and reducing carbon emissions in key industries. The output and sales of new-energy vehicles in China have ranked among top in the world for years.

China has also improved its carbon sinks. Its forest coverage has continued expanding for more than 30 consecutive years, accounting for over 25 percent of the world's new afforested areas. It has proposed an action plan for protecting, preserving and restoring 70 billion trees within the next decade. China has also fulfilled the target of cutting carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from those in 2005. In July 2021, China launched the world's largest national carbon market to control greenhouse gas emissions through market mechanisms and promote green transformation of enterprises.

China has contributed to global climate governance, promoting the building of a fair global climate governance system and contributing to the launch of the Paris Agreement. It has proposed the goals of peaking its carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060 in line with the agreement, boosted South-South cooperation, and provided support for other developing countries on addressing climate change.

For the years to come, China will continue to prioritize ecological protection, and drive green transformation in more socioeconomic fields.

Razan Al Mubarak 

President of International Union for Conservation of Nature 

Razan Al Mubarak

Protecting the diversity of life on the planet is one of our greatest challenges. The diversity of life on earth ranges from the smallest insects to the largest mammals, the plants, the fungi and other animals. These are all the building blocks of life on earth.

Nature not only provides us with the foundation for life, but it also makes life worth living. However, biodiversity and nature are under immense threats. According to reports from the UN and many other international organizations, we are losing up to 1 million species through extinction. It has been estimated that we are losing 10,000 species per year. Up to 80 percent of this loss is due to habitat loss. This habitat loss is primarily driven by agriculture. Humans really need to change the way of producing food, living and working to protect the nature that they very much depend on.

Now, our generation is taking decisions for our great grandchildren and grandchildren. We need to find a way to build innovative solutions, institutions and forms where issues, challenges and actions are taken by both generations, the one of today and the one of tomorrow. We need to bridge the gap between the generations and benefit from this collective wisdom.

Perhaps the previous generations are better at this because of the connection with nature. As such, there is an imperative for the young to reconnect with nature. The biggest divide that we are observing is a divide between urban and country living. The younger generation is overwhelmingly moving toward a greater urbanization and consequently a disconnection from nature. It is imperative to integrate nature in the development of the new green economy.

Erik Berglof 

Chief Economist of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank 

Erik Berglof

China has made efforts to reach its carbon peak and neutrality targets. It is about setting targets for individual economic entities at all levels of the economy. The country has a well-developed planning system and it is very much in high gear to achieve the targets.

China launched an emissions trading system last year. Another element that could be developed even more and complement the market is green financial governance. It is about how to use regulation and financial incentives to encourage a change in behavior to go through the financial institutions. The right balance over time and across sectors and regions should be struck. That is the fundamental challenge that China is facing in trying to achieve its carbon peak and neutrality targets.

It is very important that governments at all levels, regions and sectors have targets, and design mechanisms for risk sharing between financial institutions and emitting enterprises. It is also suggested that China establish a net zero policy committee to strengthen accountability and encourage evolution and innovation under green governance. It's a way to monitor and make sure that these policies are actually implemented on the ground when we look at international experience.

China's authorities are supposed to encourage local governments to publish carbon peak and neutrality plans, engage with peers inside and outside China and use regulation and industry standards to complement traditional planning. The financial sector needs to be deeply involved in shaping the carbon market. All those are important for making the market work. There are also opportunities for individual organizations to develop internal shadow carbon pricing.

China has seen positive development in terms of green finance. Today, China has a very significant market for sustainable finance that needs to be developed more, and there are a lot of opportunities for using subsidies to promote innovation and implementation of new technologies. Much of the net zero transition will be about putting new technology in place. Not only China, but also many other countries, rely heavily on that. New technologies need to be put into the market.

The financial system also plays a very important role. The People's Bank of China has been very much leading on this to try to get financial institutions to know what climate risk they have in their lending and investment.

The targets are both important, but the 2060 carbon neutrality target should override. National support for embedding targets at local level should be provided, which decides the ceiling for the 2030 carbon peak target. China is also expected to continue to participate in the global climate agenda, as it cannot solve its own climate issues if global challenges are not solved.

Li Zheng 

Executive Vice President of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University 

Li Zheng

Countries have developed consensus on carbon neutrality and green development. Up to now, about 140 countries have announced their carbon neutrality targets, which cover 88 percent of global emissions, 90 percent of the global economy and 85 percent of the global population, to deal with sustainability challenges, including climate change.

China has been benefiting from green development. From 2005 to 2021, the country's economy increased by more than 500 percent. In the same period, its energy consumption and carbon emissions increased by around 100 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

China is steadily promoting the use of green energy. By the end of 2020, China's installed capacity of photovoltaic (PV) and wind power reached over 253 GW and 290 GW, respectively. By 2030, it is going to add installed wind and PV capacity of at least 1,200 GW, and increase that of hydro power by 80 GW. According to an estimation by the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, the green transformation may cost up to 140 trillion yuan ($20.7 trillion), but it will bring high-quality economic growth.

(Print Edition Title: Green Action) 

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson 

Comments to lixiaoyang@cicgamericas.com 

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