Environmental governance in a new era

By Bao Chuanjian Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/9 18:03:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Ecological civilization, understood as an umbrella term capturing Chinese wisdom and approach to redressing the balance between the magnificent triad of heaven, earth and humans, has been elevated to the level of national strategy and occupies an unprecedentedly salient place in the policy agenda since the 18th CPC National Congress. It catalyzes both vertical and lateral thinking on building a beautiful China, and turns into the sine qua non of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Reining in pollution is what the 19th Party Congress identified as one of the "three tough battles" China faces in the next three years. The state's determination to win the battle against pollution is manifested in three measures that stand out.

First, the revised Environmental Protection Law and Environmental Protection Tax Law, adopted at the 8th and 25th Session of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress, came into force in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

The new era also sees the release of a string of eco-environmental regulations and policies, such as Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of Ecological Civilization, Integrated Reform Plan for Promoting Ecological Civilization, 13th Five-year Eco-environmental Protection Plan, the establishment of National Ecological Civilization Experimental Zones, as well as the introduction of a market-oriented carbon trading system.

Second, two new ministries assume the major responsibility of protecting the environment and natural resources. The reshuffle has been praised as a move to thwart infighting and boost bureaucratic efficiency.

Third, four batches of the first-round central environmental protection were implemented through the country between December 2015 and September 2017.

To increase pressure, consolidate responsibilities and solve problems, the Party's Central Committee and the State Council decided to conduct a "looking-back" examination of the first-round inspections, with the first batch of inspectorates just starting their grind by the end of last May.

Under the direction of Xi's thought to build an ecological civilization by adhering to green development concepts, China's endeavor to develop an eco-friendly model of modernization has gone from strength to strength.

The implementation of the three action plans for curbing air, water and soil pollution, has been closely watched by the public. According to Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), the battle for blue sky has successfully achieved the target set by 10 measures to improve air quality, while further steps have been taken to contain environmental risks.

The composition of energy consumption has improved in the last few years. The proportion of clean energy, such as natural gas, hydropower, nuclear and wind power has continuously risen.

China has played an indispensable role in global efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable development.

The Belt and Road initiative has made environmental sustainability one of its top priorities.

Later this year, MEE and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will officially launch the International Coalition for Green Development on Belt and Road, whose international partners will bring expertise to ensure climate-resilient practices in building trade and infrastructure networks along the modern Silk Road.

President Xi's proposal of constructing a global energy internet at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015 received a positive response from the international community. The Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO) was established in 2016 and became the first international organization initiated by China in the field of energy.

With its innovative rationale and pragmatic approach, GEIDCO has obtained rising global recognition. It now has over 360 members spanning multinational corporations, consultancy firms, universities and think tanks, and social entities in 45 countries. Jeffrey Sachs, professor of sustainable development at Columbia University, believes GEIDCO "represents the boldest and most inspiring global initiative by any government to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement."

China's experience offers some important takeaway messages for other developing countries in the process of transitioning to a post-carbon society.

First, a holistic vision of environment governance remains essential. Ecological civilization is a public good and its formation permeates other policy areas such as energy politics, economic security and social justice.

Second, green and sustainable development entails transnational collaboration in a multi-level, multilateral and multidimensional manner and cross-fertilization of ideas.

Third, the concept of ecological civilization can bridge the diverging narratives about environment governance in different countries and shape the discourse needed for international cooperation.

Based on the common but differentiated responsibility principle, China will play a part in ensuring global ecological security. It takes a village to build an ecological civilization which is vital to sustain any nation's development in the Anthropocene. As the Katowice Climate Change Conference approaches, the world gets an important opportunity to rethink the way to fulfill promises of eco-environmental governance and make our planet a better place to live on.

The author is an assistant research fellow with the Central Institute of Party History and Literature. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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