Here’s How China Will Support the UN’s New Climate Change Agenda

This year’s Climate and Society class is out in the field (or lab or office) completing a summer internship or thesis. They’ll be documenting their experiences one blog post at a time. Read on to see what they’re up to.

By Siyuan Ma, C+S ’16

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a joint press conference with Wang Yi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China. Source: UN News Center

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a joint press conference with Wang Yi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of China. Source: UN News Center

“China is demonstrating to the world that low carbon climate resilience development pathway is achievable,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month during a visit to China. On that visit, the Secretary General met with several top Chinese officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi. One of the major topics that is covered in their meetings is China’s leadership role in the global combat against climate change and its continuing importance in the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are considered as one of the most ambitious moves UN has made recently. Built on the achievements of 1992 Earth Summit and the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000, the UN released a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last September, addressing society’s most pressing issues with 17 general goals and 169 targets.

Among all these goals, SDG 13 attracted intense interest because it focused on the biggest issue of our time: climate change.

UN Sustainable Development Goals . Source: UN News Center

UN Sustainable Development Goals . Source: UN News Center

Recognized as an ambitious transformative vision to a better world by 2030, the new agenda called for the support and cooperation from each and every nation, the players who would be crucial in achieving the 2030 vision. China is one of the world’s biggest economies, making it of vital importance in implementing the new agenda, especially when it comes to SDG 13. In recognition of its global position, China aims to help achieve SDG 13 in a number of ways.

Domestically, China has mainstreamed environmental governance into its five-year socioeconomic planning. In November 2015, China released its new plan, which aims to rein in carbon emissions and cut pollution in half in the next five years. China has also begun to test several initiatives to make this happen, including establishing 150 low-carbon industry demonstration districts across the country by 2020 and testing the waters for a carbon emissions trading market.

China’s effort to align its internal policies with global needs has already beem acknowledged and appreciated by UN. “The Secretary-General welcomed China’s early efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by aligning its five-year plan with the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the Secretary General’s spokesperson in a recent UN news release.

Internationally, China has started to become an active player in international cooperation in combating climate change. In June 2015, China’s government submitted its Intended Nationally Determination Commitment (INDC) as part of the recent Paris Agreement on climate. The INDC laid out China’s goal to peak its coal use by 2030 and at the same time to lower the carbon intensity of its economy while promoting the development of clean energy. Because China is the world’s largest emitter annually, this commitment could have a huge impact on the climate as well as future negotiations.

China has also committed to invest $3.1 billion to establish the South-South Cooperation Fund to support other developing countries’ efforts on mitigating and adapting to climate change. At the same time, China has been active in bridging and sharing its technology and experiences with other nations under bilateral cooperation relationships. For example, the U.S.-China Workshop on Clean Energy Development has become one of the most important communication platforms for these two major economies to exchange visions and ideas.

Challenges and opportunities coexist in this worldwide combat against climate change. There will be a long way to go to see how climate-related concerns will be addressed in China and in the world. But as major nations shoulder more responsibilities, there’s hope that many SDGs will be reached by the 2030 deadline.


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