Write "climate change" in Chinese characters into the web search
bar of baidu.com and what comes up? More than 3.7 million web pages
devoted to the subject.
In 2007, the term "climate change", an awkward wording for many
Chinese even just years ago, was highlighted in a package of
government documents and came to influence the workings of
officials and Chinese citizens.
Government Works Hard
As early as 1990, China set up a national coordination team
under the State Council, the Chinese cabinet, to face the
challenges presented by climate change. In 2007, the team, which
was composed of a dozen ministers or deputy ministers from
different sectors, was transformed into an enlarged body under the
directorship of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
In 2007, China promulgated a fleet of policies and blueprints
concerning climate change. This showed its determination to tackle
the pressing problem.
To take the lead, the National Development and Reform Commission
(NDRC) issued the General Work Plan for Energy Conservation and
Pollutant Discharge Reduction on June 3. This aimed at reducing the
discharge of major pollutants by 10 percent during the 11th
Five-Year Plan (2006-2010).
Just one day later, the same organization published the National
Climate Change Program, the first of its kind for a developing
country. According to the 62-page program, which was presented as
the "basic law" guiding China's endeavor to cope with climate
change, the country would reduce energy consumption per unit of
gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 percent, or four percent
annually, before 2010 and slow down the increase of carbon dioxide
In a corresponding act, the Ministry of Science and Technology
(MOST) made public China's Scientific and Technological Actions on
Climate Change on June 14. MOST minister Wan Gang told the media
that China would strive to make breakthroughs by 2020 in a batch of
key technologies to control GHS and curb climate change.
Then in early September, the NDRC issued the Medium- and
Long-Term Plan on the Development of Renewable Energy. Under this
plan, China sought to bring the proportion of the consumption of
renewable energy to 10 percent of total energy consumption by 2010,
and up to 15 percent by 2020. In 2005, the proportion was merely
7.5 percent, as the country still relied heavily on coal and
In the wake of these tough measures, climate change had become a
testing ground to mark the performance of officials. Starting 2008,
governors at all levels are obliged to report to the central
government their efforts in saving energy and reducing pollutant
discharge. Those who failed to achieve their respective goal would
be punished, Xie Zhenhua, NDRC deputy director, warned on Nov.
Behind the flurry of polices lay a shift in China's development
strategy. Over the past five years, the country had maintained a
double-digit economic increase, but the environment had paid a huge
price for the growth. This was represented by the severe pollution
of more than a few lakes and rivers throughout the country.
Addressing the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of
China (CPC), President Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CPC
Central Committee, pledged China would spare no effort to pursue an
ecological civilization that focused on environmental protection
and coexistence with nature.
The international communities applauded China for its
unremitting drive to fight climate change, which, as a developing
country, had no concrete quota for reducing GHS as prescribed by
the Kyoto Protocol.
"China is doing a great deal in terms of bringing about high
efficiency of energy use," said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), during the
just-completed United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali,
Indonesia. He said China was doing what it could in combating
climate change as the government was very conscious of the
challenges posed by climate change impact
Civil Society Forges Ahead
For Beijing resident Dong Ruixiang, 2007 meant a change of both
mindset and actions. Last summer, the 43-year-old college teacher
participated in the "Global Warms, Everyone Shares" program
sponsored by Friends of Nature (FON), one of the largest Chinese
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to environmental
Dong made a commitment to cut his individual emission of carbon
dioxide throughout the year. He contributed 750 RMB yuan (100 US
dollars) for the planting of 30 trees as a means to compensate his
On June 22, Dong went to a local community and called on the
residents to cut power off all electrical appliances between 8 p.m.
to 9 p.m.. He was pleased to find that nearly half the households
turned off lights and went out chatting with their neighbors.
That night, Dong sent more than 100 mobile short messages to his
relatives and friends requesting their participation in switching
off bulbs. "Climate change concerns everyone's livelihood. We
should pursue a simple life instead of private cars and other
things for show," said the academic who grew up in west China's
Lanzhou, a city noted for its chemical industry.
Dong is not a rare case. The China Youth Daily released a survey
in late August that found nearly 80 percent of the 2,500-plus
interviewees were familiar with the concept of global warming and
climate change and their impact. About 76 percent economized on
electricity and water in their daily lives.
At the same time, Chinese NGOs were becoming important parties
advancing the public awareness of climate change and policy-making
Back in 2004, the Global Village of Beijing, a Beijing-based NGO
dedicated to environmental education and civil society
strengthening, initiated a campaign calling on the public to keep
air conditioners no lower than 26 degrees centigrade in summer. The
grassroots program took effect and turned into a national circular.
The State Council stipulated in June this year that all
air-conditioned rooms of the central and local governments should
meet the requirement.
FON President Yang Dongping, who is also a scholar at the
Beijing Institute of Technology, believed that environmental NGOs
would be given further roles to play. "In coping with climate
change, NGOs can not only help shape the living habits of citizens,
but also contribute to the scientific and rational policy-making
process of government."
(Xinhua News Agency December 22, 2007)