The change in China’s leadership is no doubt at the very centre of global attention – at an almost equal level with the American Presidential election. What is even more interesting is that even though climate did not feature prominently as a key issue in the US during the campaign period, dealing with climate change and sustainable development is very much at the centre of China’s political agenda for the coming decade.
In his speech to the 18th Party Congress, outgoing President Hu Jintao reiterated the importance of sustainable development in China in the next 10 years. President Hu stressed that “ecological civilization” (a Chinese term for the Clean Revolution) will be integrated into the existing guiding principles of economic, political, cultural and social development. This clearly heralds a period of more political attention paid to sustainable development, as the understanding of China’s social and economic challenges deepens.
President Hu said that eco-civilization is a long-term goal, key to the improvement of the Chinese people’s quality of life and the country’s future. Faced with challenge of resource constraints, environmental pollution and ecosystem degradation, China has to prioritize environmental protection and saving resources. The President said that a fundamental shift of way of development in China is expected in the coming decade to a more sustainable, low carbon path.
This also means that the long-standing national goal of achieving an improvement in quality of life for everyone in China by 2020 will no longer be measured just in GDP growth but also viewed in the context of quality of life and environmental protection.
With the Clean Revolution regarded as a top national priority a clearer policy direction, more “green” initiatives and renewed investment in clean technology innovation and deployment of clean energy solutions can be expected to pick up steam.
The President’s speech highlighted four “fronts”, including:
- Development based on ecological function zoning: Land use and development shall be optimized by balancing population, resource and environmental concerns.
- Development based on radical resource saving: Resource saving shall become the new norm of Chinese society. Reduced energy use, better land and water use and an energy revolution based on renewables will be key priorities.
- More efforts shall be made to protect natural ecosystems. Large-scale ecological recovery projects will be implemented to enhance the ecosystems’ capability to produce goods and services in a sustainable way that will minimize water, air and soil contamination. At the same time China will actively work with the international community to tackle global climate change.
- An assessment framework, measuring resource consumption, environmental damage and ecological benefits, which will establish corresponding target mechanism and evaluation method, as well as rewards and penalties will be enforced. For the first time ever President Hu stressed that China will play its role in safeguarding what he called global ecological safety. The President’s statement has already been reflected in The Climate Group’s recent “ Consensus and Cooperation: China and Global Sustainable Development” report where the need for enhanced cooperation between China and the international community is recommended.
President Hu’s has certainly passed a Chinese Clean Revolution torch to the next generation of Chinese leaders – something that we at The Climate Group can only applaud and work hard to encourage.