September - China: Green Economy Gaining Speed

China, September 2015 - As the world’s most populous country and second largest economy, China’s development trajectory not only affects its 1.3 billion citizens but also impacts the rest of the world. China’s rapid economic development over the past 30 years has come at a heavy cost and the Government recognizes the need to make development more inclusive and environmentally sustainable, a principle further supported by the impact of recent market volatility.

In recent years, China has undertaken meaningful efforts to push the green agenda, including exceptional investment in renewable energy, commitment to combating climate change, strong leadership in South-South cooperation, and high-level support for greening its own economy. The concept of “Ecological Civilization”, which is a core component of China’s overall national development strategy, demonstrates the Government’s high-level commitment to green development. This concept has also received strong support at the local level: 125 districts have had their initiatives deemed national Ecological Civilization demonstration sites.

In anticipation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) twenty-first Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris this December, China officially submitted its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC in early June. The World Resources Institute has hailed it as “a serious and credible contribution.”  The INDC states the country’s aims by 2030 to allow CO2 emissions peak, to reduce CO2 intensity (CO2 emitted per unit of GDP) by 60-65% below 2005 levels, and to increase non-fossil fuel share of energy to 20% .  The target of peaking emissions was originally announced by President Xi Jinping last November alongside US President Barack Obama in a joint announcement on climate change.

As the world’s largest economy in transition, China has also been an innovative leader in addressing the financial needs of development. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) initiated by China has attracted the attention of 57 countries’ to Asia’s development. The newly launched New Development Bank (NDB) by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is an example of South-South cooperation. Echoing China’s zeal for renewable energy investment, three other BRICS countries (Brazil, India, and South Africa) are among the top ten investors in renewable energy worldwide.  The emphasis on greening the NDB was displayed in April when the Environment Ministers from the BRICS countries met in Russia, along with UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner to discuss the possibility of the NDB setting up a ‘green fund’ to undertake projects and develop technologies towards sustainable development.

In June 2015, China became the eighth country to join PAGE with the official inclusion of Jiangsu province.  PAGE will immediately focus on conducting an assessment in the province, including mapping partners’ activities and developing baseline data. This assessment will inform the next phase, in which the provincial government will identify the key sectors and issues to benefit from PAGE support. Jiangsu has already initiated its inclusive green economy (IGE) transformation and joining PAGE provides the province an excellent opportunity to share experience and good practices with PAGE partners, as well as to continue to work towards its sustainability goals.

Between the Financing for Development Conference in July, the launching of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda in September, and COP21 in December, 2015 is a pivotal year for international development; it is also an important year for China. The government is preparing the thirteenth Five Year Plan which will set the country’s development priorities for the next five years. The plan is not final yet, but one thing is certain: green development will be at the centre of China’s strategy and the pace of change will be accelerated.