China’s green road to sustainable development

By Jiang Xiheng Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/29 14:58:39

Photo: IC

On September 26, Chinese delegation attending the 74th Session of the UN Assembly unveiled at the UN Headquarters China's Progress Report on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2019), the second progress report released by the Chinese government since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015.

Like its first progress report, the second one takes stock of the progress China has made in pursuing the 2030 Agenda in an all-round way, identified gaps and outlined plans for the next step. On top of that, as a welcome improvement, the report also included multiple case studies in five aspects of China's implementation endeavor, providing valuable references for the global implementation process. 

The report speaks volumes of the resolve and action of China as a committed and responsible major country. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a huge project that demands systematic efforts as well as strong political will, resolve and action. This report shows the proactive, steady, sustained and robust efforts of the Chinese government and, more importantly, guided and orderly participation and great contribution of motivated multiple stakeholders in China in implementing the Agenda.

As stressed by the Sustainable Development Report 2019 released by the UN, climate change and development inequality are two major challenges facing today's world. China is fully committed to ecological progress and inclusive development. The building of an "ecological civilization" has been written into the Chinese Constitution and the idea that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" has taken root in the hearts of ordinary Chinese people. Since 2012, China has afforested nearly 70,000 square kilometers and restored more than 30,000 square kilometers of desertified land each year on average. Between 2000 and 2017, the new afforestation in China accounted for 25 percent of the global total.

China has taken a massive precision poverty alleviation endeavor, bringing millions of people out of poverty, promoting rural renewal and pursuing inclusive development. Its efforts to leave no one behind have paid off handsomely. China brought 13 million people out of poverty every year between 2012 and 2018, and the total number accounts for over 70 percent of poverty reduction worldwide for the same period. 

China is on track to eradicating absolute poverty next year and meet the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 years ahead of schedule. Maternal and neonatal mortality rates have been further reduced, although China has met these targets long before required. China keeps narrowing the gap between urban and rural areas and between different regions in terms of infrastructure such as road and ICT access, expanding the social security net, and further improving provision of public services.

As the largest developing country, China is committed to its due international responsibilities as an active participant in global climate governance for an equitable, reasonable and win-win global system. China endeavors to align the Belt and Road cooperation with the 2030 Agenda for common development. Over the years, China has also provided assistance to other developing countries to the best of its ability to support them in implementing the 2030 Agenda through bilateral channels and under the framework of South-South cooperation, including through the China-UN Peace and Development Fund and South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, making important contributions to the global implementation process.

The report offers China's experience for other countries to speed up their implementation. President Xi Jinping stressed that sustainable development holds the "golden key" to the resolution of today's global issues. In pursuing sustainable development, countries need to learn from each other and foster synergy in addressing challenges. The report sheds light on China's experience at least in three respects, providing useful references for other countries.

First, how to integrate the SDGs into national mid-to-long-term development strategy. China is committed to innovation-driven, coordinated, green and open development that is shared by all, and pursues a five-sphere integrated plan in its development, which fits perfectly well with the 2030 Agenda's idea of integrated and balanced development in economic, social and environmental dimensions. The five-year plan for national economic and social development is a periodic guiding document for China's development across the board. From day one of China's implementation, the 2030 Agenda has been deeply integrated with China's 13th Five-Year Plan to ensure the implementation is comprehensive, balanced, practical and effective.

Second, how to build an implementation mechanism featuring balanced progress and effective coordination. The 2030 Agenda is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets. In early 2016, China established an inter-agency coordination mechanism participated in by 45 government departments. For balanced progress in implementation, 17 goals and 169 targets were divided and assigned to different departments according to their mandates. In fact, the report itself is an outcome of inter-agency coordination and contribution, fully demonstrating the importance of an effective implementation mechanism

Third, how can societal participation and contribution be encouraged. A highlight in this report is China's best practices in five areas - targeted poverty alleviation, innovation-driven development, ecological civilization, revitalizing rural China, and the Belt and Road cooperation, explained through 17 cases, including practice of local governments, villages, towns, the business community and ordinary people. This presents a more comprehensive picture of how the two approaches are combined - government's top-down mobilization and inputs, and implementation, and bottom-up implementation with the participation, innovation and initiatives of the non-state actors.

The report sets objectives for the next steps of China's implementation. Sustainable development is an ongoing endeavor. China is still confronted with a long and uphill journey in development, including shifting growth drivers and promoting structural adjustment and upgrading. The report outlines tasks and specific pathways for the next steps at the end of the chapter for each and every SDG, indicating China's confidence and resolve to pursue better, more efficient, equitable and sustainable development. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda calls for the effort of all countries. This progress report gives us great confidence that China will continue to step up domestic implementation and make more contribution to the global implementation process.

The author is vice president of China Center for International Knowledge on Development (CIKD).

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