China tackles climate change and honors the Paris Agreement

Geneva, 18 January 2017 - Chinese president Xi Jinping highlighted the need for action on climate change in an address to the United Nations in Geneva on the 18th of this month. In his speech, Xi referenced the Paris Agreement, and emphasized the role of governments around the world in ensuring the agreement is adhered to and upheld in upcoming years.

“The Paris agreement is a milestone in the history of climate governance. We must ensure this endeavor is not derailed,” said Xi, “All parties should work together to implement the Paris agreement. China will continue to take steps to tackle climate change and fully honor its obligations.”

These statements in Geneva mirrored much of what Xi spoke about at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, two days prior. In a clear appeal to United States President Donald Trump, Xi noted that “walking away” from the pact would be to the clear detriment of future generations’ wellbeing. “We should join hands and rise to the challenge”, Xi stated.  

During his address in Davos, Xi highlighted the economic growth experienced by his country thanks to green development investments, saying they were already “paying off” despite many being implemented in only the last few years. Recent action by the president, namely the suspension of 101 coal-power projects across the country worth 430 billion yuan, or USD 63 billion, further highlights China’s commitment to reducing emissions and developing a greener economy. Earlier in January, China was also in the news for pledging to invest 2.5 trillion yuan (USD 360 billion) in renewable energy, including wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power, by 2020. This investment is set to create 13 million new jobs in the sector. In addition, renewable power will contribute to about half of all new electricity generation by the year 2020 as a result of the investment. 

As a PAGE member country, China has continuously placed emphasis on the Inclusive Green Economy approach to growth since its acceptance into the partnership in June 2015. At the national level, China views green economy as a balance between economic growth, improved ecosystems and environmental quality, and inclusive and balanced distribution of benefits between regions, cities and rural areas and with all people. The country included “green development” as a major pillar of growth in its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and its current 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).

On a regional level, PAGE works within the Jiangsu Province, home to 80 million people. To maintain its competitiveness and achieve inclusive development for its citizens, the province has committed to greening its economy. Jiangsu started mainstreaming green elements into its economic development plans in 2000 and set the overall target of “building up a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way and realizing modernization by 2020” in 2003. Its upcoming plans, including the 13th Five-Year Plan for the National Economic and Social Development of Jiangsu Province and other legislation, reveal clear focus on many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, Goal 5 on Gender Equality is incorporated into evaluation mechanisms on gender equality policies and regulations and Goal 14 on Life Below Water is addressed in the Plan for Jiangsu Province for Ecological Civilization Construction, which sets targets for offshore water quality. Local initiatives include the “Green Jiangsu” project designed to increase forested areas within the province and the “Work Program on Circulation of Industrial Parks” which aims to make logistics, water supply, power supply, heat supply, lighting, buildings and other infrastructures in industrial parks more sustainable and self-contained.

The recent comments of President Xi reflect the efforts made in Jiangsu Province and underline the country’s commitment to greening its economy. Through information sharing events, PAGE has received interests from other provinces and cities in China committed to inclusive green economy transition. Additionally, the efforts in Jiangsu have inspired three additional provinces in China to undertake inclusive green economy projects of their own. To facilitate learning and information sharing between the provinces, a network is being established to share best practices and encourage continued action. PAGE will continue to work collaboratively with the Government of China to support both provincial and national transition towards an Inclusive Green Economy.

For more on Jiangsu Province’s transition to an inclusive green economy, please see our 2016 stocktaking report here.