SCIO press conference on strengthening eco-environment protection for a Beautiful China

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Mr. Huang mentioned that since the 18th CPC National Congress, China's role in global environmental governance has shifted from participation to leadership. Can you provide us with more information on this topic? Thank you.

Huang Runqiu:

Thank you for your question. I'm glad to give you additional information about China's transformation from participation to leadership in global environmental governance.

The Earth is the only home where we humans can survive. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, "We only have one Earth. Protecting the ecological environment and pushing sustainable development are our joint obligations." Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has paid close attention to the trend of the times with a global perspective. It has fulfilled its responsibilities as a major country and achieved the transformation from participation to leadership in global environmental governance. From my perspective, China has made the following achievements.

First, China has been deeply engaged in global climate change governance. President Xi Jinping has constantly expounded China's proposition on global climate change governance on major international occasions. This has injected strong momentum into global efforts to tackle climate change. China upholds multilateralism and the principle of equal, common, but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. It has been working to ensure the formulation, signing, enforcement, and implementation of the Paris Agreement and has become a crucial force in guiding global climate actions. China also announced the target of reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. It also pledged to stop building new coal-fired power projects overseas and initiated and steadily developed the world's largest carbon market. These efforts have showcased China's dedication as a responsible major country.

Second, China has taken the lead in global biodiversity governance. As the host country, China successfully held the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). It also facilitated the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This historic document is not only ambitious but also practical and balanced. The move has opened a new chapter in global biodiversity governance, widely recognized by the international community. As one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, China has achieved great progress in biodiversity conservation, quite better than the global average. About 18% of China's total land territory is designated as nature reserves, and over 30% is marked as ecological protection "red line" zones. The country has seen a steady increase in wild populations of more than 300 rare and endangered wild animals and plants. China also took the lead and allocated 1.5 billion yuan to establish the Kunming Biodiversity Fund in a bid to support developing countries in their efforts to protect biodiversity.

Third, we have promoted global green and low-carbon development. In recent years, China has vigorously promoted the advancement of renewable energy. The total installed capacity of renewable energy power generation has exceeded 1.3 billion kilowatts, surpassing coal power. The installed capacities of hydropower, wind power, solar power, and nuclear power under construction rank as the largest in the world. The production and sales of new energy vehicles have topped global rankings for eight consecutive years, with a fleet of 16.2 million vehicles. Over half of the world's new energy vehicles are driven in China. China supplies 50% of the world's wind power equipment and 80% of photovoltaic component equipment. It is precisely due to the technological advancements and widespread application of renewable energies such as wind and photovoltaic power in China that the utilization cost of renewable energy has significantly decreased worldwide. In 2021, the cost of solar photovoltaic installation was approximately 82% lower compared to 2010, and the cost of wind power installation had decreased by 35% to 40%. This has not only propelled China's green and low-carbon development but also contributed significantly to global emissions reduction.

Fourth, we have been jointly building the Green Belt and Road. We have signed cooperation agreements with over 30 countries and international organizations along the Belt and Road and launched the Belt and Road Green Development Partnership Initiative with 31 countries. We spearheaded the establishment of the Belt and Road International Green Development Alliance, which now boasts more than 150 cooperation partners from 43 countries. We've developed the Belt and Road Ecological and Environmental Big Data Service Platform, implemented the Green Silk Road Envoy Program, and trained over 3,000 environmental management personnel, experts, and scholars from over 120 countries. We have engaged in South-South cooperation on climate change response along the Belt and Road and inked cooperation agreements with 39 partner countries. We have assisted them in enhancing their capabilities to address climate change through the provision of meteorological satellites and photovoltaic power systems.

Fifth, we have strengthened environmental management for overseas projects. We have published guidelines for ecological and environmental protection in foreign investment and cooperation initiatives, thereby setting explicit environmental protection requirements for project execution. Chinese enterprises have embraced advanced environmental protection philosophies in the process of undertaking overseas projects. For instance, during the construction of the container terminal project in Ghana, a Tortoise Breeding Center was established, resulting in the hatching and release of more than 10,000 baby sea turtles. In the course of the China-Laos railway construction, tunnels were extended, and roads were replaced with bridges several times to safeguard the habitat of the local elephant population.

Next, we will continue to uphold the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, and actualize the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative. We will actively engage in global environmental governance, diligently fulfill international conventions, and make larger contributions to fostering sustainable development for humanity and constructing a clean and beautiful world. Thank you.

Cover News:

Hello Mr. Huang, we have noticed that PM2.5 concentration increased by 6.2% in the first half of this year. What is the reason for this increase? What measures will be taken in the next step to further protect the blue sky? Thank you.

Huang Runqiu:

Thank you for your questions. The issue of air quality frequently features in our press conferences, and I appreciate you bringing it up today. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has waged war on air pollution with unprecedented efforts, and we have achieved historic improvements in air quality. From 2013 to 2022, despite our GDP doubling, China's average PM2.5 concentration has decreased by 57%, and the number of heavy pollution days has reduced by 93%. This improvement has made China the country with the most rapid enhancement in air quality globally. In 2013, Beijing's average PM2.5 concentration was 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter, but it dropped to 30 micrograms per cubic meter last year. Moreover, the number of heavy pollution days decreased from 58 to just three, a feat recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme as the "Beijing miracle."

As you mentioned earlier, national air quality deteriorated in the first half of this year, with a 6.2% increase in PM2.5 concentration and a 3.2 percentage point decrease in the proportion of good air quality days compared to the same period last year. Through our analysis, we believe there are three main reasons for this deterioration:

First, the base for the same period last year was low. Over the past three years, due to factors such as COVID-19, China's atmospheric pollutant emissions have significantly decreased. In the first half of last year, the national PM2.5 concentration was 32 micrograms per cubic meter, the lowest in the same period in nearly eight years. Second, this year's meteorological conditions have been extremely unfavorable. Influenced by the periodic activity of the Asian winter monsoon, sand and dust weather processes have increased significantly throughout the country. There were 37 occurrences in the first half of the year, including 15 large-scale sand and dust weather events, the most in the same period in 15 years. These weather conditions have resulted in a 5.4 percentage point decrease in the proportion of good air quality days nationwide and a 1.4 percentage point increase in heavy pollution days. At the same time, it is predicted that China will experience a moderate to strong El Ni?o event, and extreme heat may become the new normal for several years to come. In June of this year, there were 5.2 more high-temperature days in northern China than usual, resulting in an exceptionally high number of days exceeding ozone standards. Third, emissions have increased. As economic activities gradually recover following COVID-19, the production of some high-energy-consuming and high-emission industries, such as metallurgy, building materials, and petrochemicals, has seen a year-on-year increase, leading to increased pollutant emissions. For instance, in the first half of this year, the output of 10 non-ferrous metals in the country increased by 8% year on year. However, I want to emphasize that even considering these factors, China's PM2.5 concentration has still decreased by 15% and the proportion of good air quality days has increased by 1.3 percentage points compared with the same period in 2019, before COVID-19. Air quality has clearly improved overall.

Next, we will thoroughly implement the guiding principles from the 20th CPC National Congress and the National Ecological and Environmental Protection Conference, adhere to precise, scientific, and law-based pollution control, and expedite the introduction of the "Action Plan for Continuous Improvement of Air Quality." Our efforts will be concentrated on the following three aspects:

First, we will stringently control the increase in emissions. We will adhere to the coordinated reduction of pollution and carbon emissions to boost efficiency, expedite the development of green and low-carbon industries, and decisively curb the blind development of "two high and one low" (high energy consumption, high emissions, and low efficiency) projects. We will hasten the low-carbon transformation of energy, vigorously develop new and clean energy sources, and advance the development of a green transportation system. For bulk commodities such as coal and ore, we will prioritize the use of railways and waterways for long-distance transportation.

Second, we will reduce existing emissions. We will accelerate the clean heating transition in northern regions, encourage ultra-low emissions transformation in key industries, comprehensively manage volatile organic compounds, and undertake major projects such as the shift from road to rail and from road to waterway. These initiatives aim to achieve significant emission reductions and offset the uncertainties triggered by extreme meteorological conditions.

Third, we will continue to intensify our efforts in supervision and support. Since the beginning of this year, we have dispatched more than 2,400 law enforcement personnel from ecological and environmental departments nationwide to key areas and cities struggling with air quality issues. We've organized them into two teams, "the expert group" and "the general group," and established online and offline platforms to oversee and assist efforts to improve air quality. Concentrating on large emitters and specialized tasks in key areas, we have conducted in-depth investigations and research, identifying a total of 32,000 gas-emitting problems. As a result, 26,000 issues have been rectified, effectively reducing pollutant emissions and enhancing environmental governance capabilities. Moving forward, we will continue to supervise and provide support in key areas, promoting the implementation of crucial tasks.

Media friends, the blue sky protection campaign cannot be accomplished in a single action, nor can it be realized solely through the efforts of ecological and environmental departments. It requires the cooperation of the entire society, and the combination of law-based governance, market forces, science and technology, and policies, particularly with heightened support from finance, taxes, and pricing. We will continue to make relentless efforts to control air pollution and protect the beautiful blue sky for the people. Thank you.

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